Monday, August 28, 2006

US undoing at expense of Iraqis

August 27 2006

US undoing at the
expense of Iraqis

THE looting of a military base taken over by Iraqi security forces from British troops on Thursday was the manifestation of yet another problem facing what should ideally be a smooth transfer of facilities and control from foreign forces in Iraq to the country's government. It deals a severe blow to assertions by the Baghdad government that its security forces are capable of ensuring law and order and they could gradually replace the US-led occupation soldiers.
It could be expected that opportunists would be waiting for the right chance to loot whatever is possible in any situation of armed conflict anywhere in the world. The local authorities should have taken that into consideration and sould have been prepared to counter them. The very fact that the Iraqi security forces failed to foresee the eventuality at Camp Abu Naji in southern Iraq on Thursday and that they were too few in number to ward off the looters unveils major flaws in their planning and execution of security projects such as taking control of camps vacated by foreign forces.
There have been such transfer of possession and control from foreign forces to Iraqi authorities at several bases and all of them were reported to have gone well, but then almost all of them took place in central and northern part of the country.
In the Camp Abu Naji indident, hours after the British turned over the military base to Iraqi control, looters picked the military base clean after a brief clash with Iraqi soldiers.
For many, as one of the looters reportedly told reporters at the scene, "This is war loot and we are allowed to take it."
It could be easily asserted that the US-led foreign forces are tasting their own medicine. They stood by in silence as Iraqis stormed and looted banks, museums, government buildings, presidential palaces and public and private property immediately after the fall of Baghdad and other cities of Iraq in March and April 2003. In certain cases, it was as if the foreign forces — who had little to lose from Iraqi national losses anyway — set up the places for looting under protection as a matter of exacting revenge from the ousted Saddam Hussein regime. This gave an assurance to everyone that they could get away with their crime, and the Camp Abu Naji incident fits into that pattern.
The looting also exposes the reality that the people of Iraq do not recognise military bases — like other symbols of a central authority — as an integral part of their security system and national property. Indeed, that is the overriding factor in Iraq today, with not many feeling any sense of belonging because of a resignation to what they see as the eventual collapse of whatever system that has been built so far but undermined by sectarian hostilities and guerrilla war that spare no one. The people of Iraq seem to have lost hope that there is any light at the end of the tunnel for themselves. They have seen and are continuing to witness and suffer gross violations of their human rights, with the foreign forces, mainly American, doing as they please, including massacre, rape, summary arrests, torture and animal-style humiliation.
Washington's strategists have either failed to recognise or deliberately ignored the realities on the ground except what they see as direct challenge to the US and foreign military presence in Iraq. Their vision is narrowed to fighting off the insurgency at whatever cost and installing a US-friendly regime in Baghdad, and that is proving out to be their undoing in Iraq, but with the people of that country paying a heavy price for the American shortcomings.