Finding the Willing
Michael Ubaldi, June 4, 2004.
Islamofascists in Iraq were dealt another blow:
Iraqi police forces have detained Umar Baziyani, an associate of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, U.S. Central Command announced Friday. Baziyani is known to have ties to several extremist terrorist groups in Iraq and is believed to be responsible for the death and injury of scores of innocent Iraqi citizens, according to Centcom. Authorities say Baziyani is also wanted in connection with anti-coalition activities.
One of the most resilient — but poorly reasoned — remonstrations since the occupation began last April has been for the retention of the Iraqi army. Saddam's army: the fragmented, internecine force made up of everyone from unwilling conscripts to knuckleheaded thugs to crossover Islamist terrorists, with the sole purpose of sustaining Ba'athist reign through external conquest and the repression of Iraq's population. It doesn't take a military expert to divine how fundamental a country's authoritarian culture is to its armed forces: in Iraq, military structure, operation and morale all ran on the currency of mutual fear and distrust.
Beyond function, Saddam's military served well as a terrifying symbol of the dictator's power and brutality. Even if keeping the army weren't a betrayal of principle, it would be an offense to natural allies. Like the Ba'ath Party's ubiquity, the army's continued existence implied Saddam's permanence: one need not look beyond the nervous reaction from Shiites and Kurds at the mere sight of former Republican Guard General Jassim Mohammed Saleh in Fallujah before the Marines got wise and yanked him. Cultural repercussions of retention are a variable we will never, thankfully, know.
The military was no more than the sum of its parts. In Saddam's uniform, the murderous succeeded and the unwilling were cannibalized. Retraining military-aged men in Iraq to protect and serve, rather than torment, civilians — a role agreed upon by proponents and opponents alike — would have required the standing army's complete disassembling, from hierarchy to ethos, effectively "disbanding" it anyway.
Some retention proponents claim, as Bill O'Reilly loudly did on television last night, that the Bush administration's refusal to co-opt Saddam's war machine is directly responsible for the Ba'athist insurgency centered in the Sunni Triangle and concentrated in Fallujah. But when the number of assailants — including Syrians, Saudis, al Qaeda and other terrorists — is believed less than a couple thousand or more, and Saddam's forces were estimated before the campaign at half a million, how can anyone tell that the "dead-enders" disrupting Iraq's democratization today would have acted any differently if invited to keep their old uniforms?
What's both tragic and worth a chuckle — laughter to offset the tragedy — is that American command is recruiting former army soldiers. But it's done under American rules:
U.S. military advisers are forming an all-Iraqi counterinsurgency force and training it in guerrilla tactics like ambushing trucks and hiding alongside the road camouflaged as bushes. The new force, called the Iraqi National Task Force, is the most ambitious effort yet to fight the uprising using Iraqis, and it already has 1,000 soldiers with plans to grow to 7,000.
U.S. advisers say they are pleased with the progress. The original goal for the police force was 85,000 officers; 92,000 have been hired. The border patrol is fully staffed at 17,000 officers, and so is the facility protection services at 74,000 officers. The civil defense corps is at 25,000, with another 15,000 soldiers to go. The army is the furthest from its goal, with 7,000 soldiers of the 35,000 intended.