2003 May 16 Friday
Homicide Rate In Baghdad Surges 60% In Last 10 Days

While ordinary Iraqis carry out revenge killings of the Baathists the Baathists are going around sabotaging electric power lines and power plants.

Independent observers expect worse. As more and more mass graves are discovered in Iraq, and people find out exactly what happened to their relatives who disappeared, "our prediction is ... there will be a huge spike in revenge killings," says Saman Zia-Zarifi, a researcher here with Human Rights Watch. US authorities here are also worried that Baathists themselves are "actively and aggressively seeking to defeat, discredit, and disrupt coalition operations," General McKiernan said Wednesday.

This is an excellent article by Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor. The doctors can tell which of the people who come in with gunshot wounds are thieves just by looking at their shoes. Some Iraqis are advocating the shooting of looters on sight while US forces say they will only do it in self defense.

The revenge killings (which at least are probably killing some murderers of the old regime) and the looting are not the worst of it. Writing in The New Republic Hassan Fattah reports on the formation of armed militias associated with each new political party.

Except that, according to security sources, many of these parties have formed organized armed militias ranging in size from 500 men for Hizb Al Dawa, a leading theocratic Shia group, to more than 2,000 fighters for SCIRI, whose armed wing is called the Badr Brigade. SCIRI, like several of these organizations, allegedly received training for their militias from Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Even the long-repressed Iraqi Communist Party, led by aging Marxists, has supposedly set up a 600-man force.

Meanwhile, according to several security sources, even more dangerous groups may be setting up in Iraq. A group made up of former Baathists is attempting to constitute a militia of Saddam loyalists. And security sources in Baghdad say that Hezbollah, one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world, is forming an Iraqi branch.

The formation of armed militias and the declaration of areas of turf is happening throughout Iraq. If US forces are not scaled up and allowed to far more forcefully establish order the country could decay into conditions similar to what was seen in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. It is worth noting that a single truck bomb attack on a US Marines barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983 killed 241 Marines. That is more than the US has lost so far in Iraq. With Iran's attempts to interfere in Iraq and the formation of a Hezbollah branch in Iraq it is also worth noting that there are credible claims that the Iranian government ordered the truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut.

The US can not afford to be so complacent about post-war Iraq disorder. The conditions there could easily develop in ways that will make Iraq far more dangerous for US soldiers than it was during the war.

Update: Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Warren Richey finds most soldiers he talked to in Baghdad are reluctant to be given the authority to shoot looters for fear that doing so will make the population view them as enemies. Lt. Col. Joel Armstrong, commander of the 2nd Squadron of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) says the looters are not his biggest security problem.

Colonel Armstrong says looting is not the most significant problem in his sector of the city. His primary concern is the organized criminals paying the looters, as well as those carrying out carjackings, abductions, and robberies.

The move to lock up looters for a few weeks at a time will help. The attempts to put back into jail the 100,000 criminals that Saddam released could help a great deal if it could be done quickly. See the opening statement made by Ambassador Paul Bremer at his Baghdad press conference. The rate of arrests needs to be increased by an order of magnitude from the 300 in one day that Bremer mentions.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 16 10:44 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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