And so Baghdad continues to pay the price for the administration's desire to have a nice, quick little strike force, get in, get out, leave a little civil war behind, and yet have everything somehow work out in the end.
For Crime Victims in Iraq, No Place to Turn (washingtonpost.com): Late Friday night, two young women arrived at the iron gates of the Alwia neighborhood's maternity hospital, where a dust-covered white statue of a nursing mother welcomes patients and visitors. The teenagers were bruised and bloody, hospital workers recall. They asked to see a female doctor. An OB-GYN named Enas Hamdani examined them. The doctor's disgust and anger grew as the pair sobbed out their story. While they were walking last Wednesday afternoon to buy bread at the market, three men in an orange-and-white taxi kidnapped them at gunpoint. They were driven several miles, they said, to a small house on the periphery of the city, in a farming area they'd never been before. The well-appointed hideout included beds, satellite television and a supply of food, the patients told Hamdani. "They were 18 and 19 years old. They were virgins," Hamdani says in an interview in her office today. "You can imagine what happened, of course." Her examination showed evidence of repeated rape and sodomy, which the victims told her was carried out by five men for 36 hours. The women also had been beaten with boards on their faces and backs, she says. [...] As much as she despises the rapists, Hamdani reserves a special contempt for American forces who conquered Baghdad more than a month ago. She and others have heard repeated promises that reconstituted Iraqi police patrols, accompanied by military units, will be here soon. But in many neighborhoods, military commanders say their troops are stretched thinly and have no training in police work. "Everybody needs security, everywhere in Iraq. Where is it?" the doctor asks, adjusting her head scarf and batting away flies. "We don't even know where to ask." The doctor cocks a finger toward her head, as if it's a gun. "It's like the Texas you see in the movies." She means the Wild West.
Reports of rapes, holdups and murders are multiplying citywide, in both poor and upscale districts. In this city of 5 million, the dearth of police is a fundamental problem, but certainly not the only one: Electrical power, gasoline, clean water and medical supplies remain unavailable or out of reach for many residents. The looting that broke out after the fall of Baghdad was a harbinger of a slow devolution into fear and despair, especially after dark, especially for women.
In Baghdad's Anarchy, the Insane Went Free (NY Times, registration required, May 12, 2003): The only mental patient left behind at the high security ward of Al Rashad state hospital is a killer named Ali Sabah, a former math and science teacher with jet black hair and dark, searching eyes. He is off his medications, the door to the ward is wide open and shards of glass lie everywhere as potential weapons. Yet on a recent day he was calm until this reporter made a few notes. "Why is he writing my name down?" he asked. [...] In another part of the hospital, the six women among the patients who were raped by looters are receiving special attention from the nursing staff. Some spend their days curled under blankets, others have ventured out to squat in the light where there are no chairs, but where cigarettes can be smoked. The nurses whisper that one rape victim is pregnant. [...] One of the tragedies of the war — a preventable tragedy in the view of many doctors and nurses — occurred here. Iraq's only hospital providing long-term care for chronic schizophrenia and other serious disorders, Al Rashad was all but destroyed. When American marines clashed with Saddam Hussein's irregulars trying to block their advance into Baghdad, the marines came through the gates here and knocked down the walls with their tanks. They set up a command post in the nursing school. Waves of looters came in with them, staff members said. One of the oldest health institutions in Iraq, Al Rashad has long been designated a civilian hospital. The director, Amir Abou Heelo, told the Marine commander on April 8 that he was entering a psychiatric facility, staff doctors said in interviews. But the protest did little good. "I am disappointed," said Dr. Raghad Sursan, a psychiatrist. "I am mad, and if there is a word that is bigger than mad, I am that, because the marines were there and could have done something to stop it."
Why in heaven's name would you set up a command post in a facility and fail to protect the entire compound? What on earth could it gain you to allow the clinically insane to be freed and/or assaulted under your watch?
The administration was astonishingly short sighted in this venture. I'm sure that there were one or two vaguely sane people who pointed out that it would be far more difficult to put this particular genie back into the bottle once it was let out, once you allowed -- as a matter of policy -- uncontrolled violence to break free. Yes, most assuredly, some of the worst Ba'athists will be murdered by their fellow citizens, as the administration intended. But far more likely is that perfectly innocent people, already victimized once by Saddam's regime, would be assaulted again by the less law abiding members of society.
Not that there's actual law in Iraq these days, of course.
And of course, the problem is that the US now needs to provide a police force not only for Baghdad's 5 million people, but for all of Iraq's 30 million. The old detested police forces are no more; their stations have been burned, the people run away. Apart from anything else, the abolition of the Ba'ath party makes staffing the police problematic; how can you find trained police who weren't part of the security apparatus? The plain fact is that it simply isn't possible.
At the same time, the administration wants to avoid appearing as an occupying colonial power, so they want, to the extent possible, Iraqis in lower governmental positions, and to staff the police and support services. Again, they must turn to former government officials, former security police, because there is nobody else. In another world, the non-Republican Guard members of the army might have been able to serve some of that function without invoking the loathing and hatred that the Republican Guard engendered, but mostly, they're dead or dispersed.
A military officer said, some time ago, that peacekeeping in Iraq would take almost all of the deployable military. The administration shut him up fast, because they didn't want to scare Congress or the public with a realistic number. Of course, anyone with even the tiniest bit of common sense would have realized that the current forces, engaged in both military cleanup and trying to engage in some sort of police activity for which they were never trained, would be severely overtaxed. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Local Police Departments 2000 publication (PDF file), the city of Chicago -- population 2.9 million at the last census -- had over 13,000 police, or roughly 47 per 10,000 residents. (A side note: Los Angeles has approximately 30% fewer police for a somewhat larger city; they must be severely undermanned. But I digress.) Chicago proper is approximately half the size of Baghdad and in a comparatively undestroyed state; therefore, the military would need a minimum of 30,000 people dedicated to policing alone. According to the CIA World Factbook, Iraq's population is approximately 24 million people (surprisingly young country, in fact -- which could also make things worse), so project that out, and you would assume that the military would need ... hey, roughly 250,000 people for policing the entire country. Which is pretty much what the general said, now isn't it? Add to that the fact that utilities are still out, much of the city was heavily damaged in the bombing, and it's still difficult to come by the everyday necessities of living; given those factors, anyone with a quarter of a functioning brain cell could predict that crime in Baghdad would explode after the war was done. Anyone with a quarter of a functioning brain cell could predict that all of this is simply sowing the seeds for a great deal of hatred directed at the US, for things that we really and truly did do and could have prevented.
One wonders how the administration will handle this. They're desperately trying to get the soldiers currently in Iraq out, both because rotation is needed and because they want to reduce the expense of the troop deployment. However, the troops are severely undermanned for the job they now face. At the same time, the administration continues to take the attitude with the UN that this is all going to be done their way, and for the most part, the UN simply shrugs and lets it go, because they don't want the expense of dealing with this either. One would assume that eventually, the adminstration and the UN will realize that in their great pissing match, they're pissing all over the people of Iraq, who asked for none of this. One would also assume that the administration won't care. In any event, hopefully, the administration and the UN will come to some understanding about how to manage this mess before too much more damage is done.
The administration is sending a new civilian administrator to Iraq, for whatever good that will do. Garner hardly had time to do anything at all; how could they possibly lay this mess at the feet of a man who had held the position less than a month and who never had the resources he needed to handle the situation? And Bremer is certainly unlikely to fare particularly well, given the response to the previous civilian administrator for reconstruction, whenever she tried to make her case: The situation in Baghdad and much of Iraq is tumultuous. "Unless we do something in the near future, it is likely to blow up in our face," one American official said. Baghdad is once again becoming a city of almost hourly eruptions of gunfire. As part of the American transition, Barbara K. Bodine, who has been in charge of reconstruction for the Baghdad region, was abruptly given notice and will be leaving within the next day or two, American officials said. Ms. Bodine, a former ambassador to Yemen, will take a senior post at the State Department, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times both reported. [...] But colleagues of Ms. Bodine said she recognized many of the problems early on and clashed repeatedly with military commanders over drastic steps she thought were needed to restore order.
"They recognized that public order had broken down in a far more serious way than they had expected," one official said of General Garner's team. As for Ms. Bodine, "Of course it was not her fault," one colleague said. "If you keep on pointing out to people the obvious, that doesn't make you very popular." One example given was Ms. Bodine's early insistence on hiring at least 50 top-flight interpreters for General Garner's staff so they could interact and communicate effortlessly with Iraqis. But even now language support remains a sore point, an official said.
(Purely a side note: despite, as noted, a desperate need for Arabic language linguists, the army continues to discharge its linguists because of their sexual orientation. You'd think that by this point, the military would be saying, "You know, if you understand Arabic and Farsi and any of those languages, we don't care who you want to sleep with. Just get yourself over here now." Apparently, maintaining the sexual purity of the military is far more important.)Posted by iain at May 12, 2003 01:04 PM