Oct 16, 2006
Attacks on both U.S. troops and civilians in Iraq have been rising sharply recently, particularly in the capital city, Baghdad. According to the U.S. military itself, as of a month ago, attacks against U.S. forces there had increased from an average of about 36 per day to 42 per day. More recently, thirteen U.S. soldiers were killed in the city during one three-day period, the highest U.S. casualty rate since the start of the U.S. invasion.
Iraqi civilians have been suffering even more. According to the Iraqi Health Ministry, killings of civilians in Baghdad were averaging close to 100 a day about a month ago. The average is probably even higher today.
As the death count goes up, it has become more and more obvious that much of the violence is coming from the Iraqi police forces themselves. In one recent incident, gunmen burst into a food factory and kidnaped 26 workers. Since the neighborhood was under the control of an Iraqi police brigade of about 1,000 officers, it seems highly unlikely that the kidnappers could have succeeded without the cooperation or outright assistance of the brigade.
Late one night a couple weeks after this incident, gunmen, some wearing police uniforms, blocked off the area surrounding a new television station that was about to go on the air for the first time. They invaded the offices and studios of the station and killed the founder and director of the station, five guards, and five of the staff, some of whom were sleeping at the station because they feared trying to go home after dark.
Iraqi government officials are doing little to stop the violence coming from their own police units. They say they are “re-training” some units and are requiring loyalty oaths, actions that clearly will not change the situation.
This lack of effective action by government officials against the violence isn’t surprising. Many Iraqi police officers are members of militias, private armies tied to political and religious parties which are fighting against each other for power. Three of Iraq’s biggest militias, along with some smaller ones, were officially incorporated into the Iraqi police when they were first being organized, armed and trained by the U.S. starting years ago. And the militias are frequently tied to one government official or another.
So the same Iraqi government officials and the same Iraqi police forces that are supposed to bring an end to the violence are in fact committing much of the violence. The U.S. itself is providing them with the weapons and equipment they use to carry out the violence.
Playing off various Iraqi leaders and their militias against each other makes it easier for the U.S. to stay in control. But by far the greatest violence falls heavily on innocent Iraqi civilians.