Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Just Saying NO! to Thugocracies

Suddenly, articles describing the perils of tolerating thugocracies are everywhere! Here is a sample of three from today’s newspapers. Don’t put up with thugs, whichever side they nominally are on!

Leading off we have a report on why it was necessary to dismiss Saddam’s army to build a non-corrupt army (a familiar theme here!) in the new Iraq. The op-ed is “When Officers Aren’t Gentlemen” by Mark Bowden in The Wall Street Journal.

“Rebuilding the army has been more difficult than most American leaders imagined. The Pentagon claims to have fully trained 130,000 Iraqi soldiers, which is less than half of its goal. Critics like Sen. Joseph Biden, senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, dispute even that total, estimating the number of "adequately trained" Iraqis at only about 14,000. While there is argument over the pace of that effort, everyone seems to agree that it is the right way to go.
Why has it proved so hard to reconstitute the Iraqi army if, as the elections suggested, the insurgency lacks broad-based popular support? Fear is obviously a big factor. Terror attacks in recent months have subjected police and military recruits to brutal suicide bombings, kidnappings and execution. But beyond the fear factor is something else. Americans working to train the Iraqi army are still battling the ghost of Saddam Hussein.
* * *
Maj. Lechner was upbeat after the assault on Samarra: "It was very interesting and a big success," he wrote. "It was the first time an Iraqi Army unit was given its own objective to take and fought side by side with U.S. units (previously in Najaf, infantry assault units came in behind U.S. units). The story details are a combination of modern war and Alladin."
His force captured a large pharmaceutical complex and the Spiral Tower, a landmark minaret. Maj. Lechner was impressed by the way the Iraqi forces executed relatively complex infantry maneuvers, and more than held their ground when fired upon. They took and successfully held those positions, enduring mortar assaults and attacks by infiltrators over the coming weeks.
"I have never seen a situation change so dramatically," he wrote in mid-October. "When we arrived we [coalition forces] could not even approach the city without taking direct fire, and all of our bases were taking mortar and rocket fire daily. Now, there has not been one incident in weeks and we drive all over the city greeted by smiles and waves. My guys man a checkpoint where people wait in line for four hours and are still happy and smiling. I get frustrated waiting four minutes."
…No, his problem was not with foot soldiers, it was with their officers. One of the central problems with training up an Iraqi force is a military culture fostered by Saddam. The problem is not lingering loyalty to the toppled tyrant, but loyalty to the way he ran his army. Maj. Lechner noticed that the Iraqi commanders in his battalion tended to equate rank more with privilege than with responsibility. They were reluctant to stay on duty with their units for any length of time without "special passes or extended leaves," he said. The higher up the chain of command, the worse the problem. Just prior to going into action in Samarra, the Iraqi battalion commander took a leave. He didn't return until the city was secured. Up and down the officer ranks Maj. Lechner found a marked propensity to steal from their units, falsifying records, embezzling funds and even extorting money from their own men.”

Doesn’t this sound exactly like the situation previously described here regarding the Soviet & its successor Russian Armies?

Second, we have Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times who writes

“Everyone is in agreement that police officers messed up when they burst into an 84-year-old South Side woman's home last Thursday. But no one is quite sure what should be done about it. The cops were acting on a tip from an informant who told them they would find a "Sam Kennedy" and two assault weapons at a home in the 5400 block of South Princeton.
Instead of Sam and his guns, police found Hattie Cain in an upstairs bedroom. Her two tenants, both senior citizens, live on the downstairs level of the split-level home.
"I was in the bed watching the news and heard such a bang," Cain told me on Monday. "I got out and looked out of the window and police had a light flashing in my window. Just as I opened the bedroom door, they were almost at my bedroom. I said no Sam Kennedy lives here and they told me to stay back."
...It took about a dozen police officers tearing up Cain's home to determine that they were operating on flawed information.
During that time, they allegedly kicked in a back gate, broke a door off its hinges, scattered Cain's personal possessions over her house, ransacked drawers, overturned mattresses, and basically raised the blood pressure of people who are at a high risk for a stroke or heart attack.
…In the battle between good and evil, a broken gate might seem insignificant. It isn't. We can't expect anyone, let alone an 84-year-old woman who was wrongfully rousted out of her bed, to trust people who are too ornery to apologize when they make a mistake.
We should know the good guys not by their uniforms, but by the way they treat those they serve.”

Finally, John O'Sullivan has a take on the resurgent IRA thugs who now try to intimidate their erstwhile Catholic followers with

the latest form of punishment beating by the Irish Republican Army is called "a Padre Pio." The victim is told to clasp his hands in prayer and he is then shot through both palms. It is an economical form of wounding someone since one bullet produces two wounds.
Padre Pio, of course, was the saintly Italian priest whose hands bore the stigmata. These are wounds in the palms like those of the pierced hands of Christ. In addition to this, Padre Pio was rumored to be able to see directly into the souls of those who sought his counsel. More than one pious Catholic remembered a previous engagement when invited to an audience with him.
…Here is how the United States could discourage any such intention.
St. Patrick's Day will occur, as usual, on March 17. It is now an established tradition for the president to welcome Irish politicians of all stripes to the White House for an ecumenical celebration. In recent years Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein president, has been among the guests.
To warn Sinn Fein-IRA (and their Protestant equivalents, the Progressive Unionist Party, which is likewise linked to violence) of the consequences of threatening terrorism, President Bush should this year invite all the democratic party leaders on both sides of the Irish border to the St. Patrick's celebrations.
But he should explicitly disinvite Adams, Martin McGuinness, other prominent Sinn Fein figures and their counterparts in the PUP. He should explain why. He should order that their visa waivers to enter the United States be lifted. And he should make clear that they will not be able to enter the United States again until they and their colleagues have finally and permanently abandoned the gun.
Until we can look, like Padre Pio, into the IRA's soul, we have to rely on firm government to deter terrorism.”


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