Thursday, April 17, 2008

More Perspective On Why The Iraqi Army Sucks

One of the things that I have consistently said is that it is unconscionable that 4 million military-age and military-eligible Iraqi males have decided to sit on the fence while 25,000 insurgents run circles around 500,000 Iraqi police and security forces troops despite the best efforts of our 140,000-troop military and our 100,000+ contractors to stem the violence. This is why nation building will ultimately fail in a society like Iraq. They are numb from decades of oppression and dictatorship. They have no social infrastructure to build a "democracy" around--that is, functioning courts, judicial process, somewhat honest police, redress of grievances, and representation of a meaningful kind.

The rot of corruption was always there, but without a dictator, the corruption has ruined Iraqi society in a way that it will take decades of hard work to reverse. Organized crime has taken a firm hold, creating an almost insurmountable problem for a society that doesn't have the means to fight back against it. The Iraqis have been handed a country, but they're playing hot potato--no one wants to hold it. There's too much that's broken, too much that needs to be fixed. And they have to do this hard work--it has to come from people who are inside of that system to do it. US troops who go there for a year and leave cannot do it for them. Here's how bad the corruption really is:

The captain, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said he intended to extend the break to five days, maybe longer. He had not been paid in two months and was overwhelmed by the problems of commanding his company, part of the 1st Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division. He was considering not going back to the fight in Sadr City.

Desertion by Iraqi soldiers has been a problem during the recent battles in Basra and Sadr City. The government dismissed 1,300 soldiers and police officers who deserted last month during fighting in Basra. On Tuesday, another company walked away from a crucial part of the front line in Sadr City, contending that they did not have adequate support.

Five years into the American effort to build a self-sustaining Iraqi Army, these failures to stand and fight have proven an embarrassing setback to American and Iraqi officials.

The captain who left his men on Tuesday said that even away from the battle, he was not able to escape his army burdens. He said his phone rang incessantly. His men had called from the front line saying that, once again, they had run out of ammunition and they pleaded for help. He called another unit in Sadr City and arranged for ammunition to be transferred.

Then his phone had rung again, he said. It was the Mahdi Army militia, the group his men were fighting, on the line.

“We know where you live,” they had told him.

“If they come to my house, they can kill my whole family,” he said.

On the phone they had read a roster of names of the men in his battalion. “I don’t even have access to that,” he said. “They could only have gotten it from my senior commanders.

“Our senior officials, they are thieves,” he said.

He was walking around with a bullet in the chamber of his pistol, ready to be attacked at any moment.

Even the world's biggest wingnut, full of delusions and chickenhawk fantasies of military dominance and battle-space oriented tactical innovations, could not come up with a solution for THAT kind of a problem. Killing people won't fix it, nor will continued occupation.

An Iraqi revolution is what comes next, if at all. Will the US accept whatever revolution transforms the broken Iraqi society?

h/t to reader opit for the NYTimes story...

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