2004 March 20 Saturday
Clans, Mullahs, Corruption Are British Problems With Basra Police

Peter Almond of UPI reports on various challenges faced by British occupation forces in southern Iraq as they try to train and deploy a new Iraqi police force.

British and Coalition Provisional Authority officials say the mullahs intimidate the police, and when troops catch religious representatives watching the police at vehicle checkpoints -- ostensibly to identify leading members of the Baath Party -- they chase them away.

Those mullahs are going to keep trying to increase their influence. But they have two big competitors: corruption and clan loyalties. Note that they face little competition from civically minded individuals and groups of the sort that try to keep government honest in many Western countries.

On the bright side the British think they've convinced the new police force to not assault suspects.

Their British trainers say the Iraqis are struggling with Western concepts of civil rights, but appear to understand they can no longer assault suspects and throw them into prison without charge.

Any bets on whether the Basra police will continue to restrain themselves once the British are gone?

Clan loyalties, the result of webs of obligation that result from the practice of cousin marriage, make the police resist obeying orders coming down official chains of command.

Admitting that there has been a problem with soldiers ignoring their immediate officers in favor of lower-ranking individuals who are higher in the clan tree, he said he has insisted on following the chain of command and that 20 soldiers had been fired for corruption in the last two months.

All of this was predictable in advance and there were commentators who did predict it. Iraq may be able to remain a nominal democracy once US forces are drawn down. But the possibility of civil war is very real and failing that expect at the very least rampant corruption and cronyism combined with growing clerical influence which will translate into much greater suppression of women than occurred during Saddam's rule. Christians and other non-Muslims will also be worse off.

For a good starting point on why consanguineous marriage is an obstacle in the way of attempts to build a democratic and non-corrupt government in Iraq see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and follow the links from there to previous posts on the topic. Also see the post Pessimists on Muslim Democracy.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 March 20 08:10 PM  Mideast Iraq Human Nature


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