January 12, 2005

if someone comes to your house and threatens your family

Some people may think that "the insurgency" is some kind of fight for freedom from imperialism -- this is crap. It is nothing more than good old fashioned terrorists and anarchists. There are those who would like us gone so they can go back to ruling by force, in fact, that's what they're working on. Take a bunch of former regime members, add the money and weapons stashed from their old jobs, and all they want to spend their time on is driving out the coalition so that they can get back into power. Religious fundamentalists, who are really just xenophobes, want the infidels out of their holy land and make convenient allies for these guys.

If you are "working with the Americans" people will come to your house and do bad stuff to you. If you don't quit right away then they will come back and kill you. If you move so they can't find you, but keep doing something they don't like, then they will kill your family. This happens all the time, I've heard more first and second hand stories of this than I could have imagined.

One guy had a contract to paint schools. Paint schools. That was considered "working with the Americans". So guys showed up at his house and gave him a warning. He ignored it. He came home one time later and there was a guy outside his house with an RPG, the guy then blew up his house right in front of him and said next time he was dead. So ... he stopped painting schools.

A gal I know out here, who used to work in the GZ, came home one evening and her parents said that some people had come looking for her because they had heard that she was "working with the Americans" and made the usual threats. My friend came home, heard the news, packed her bags and flew to Amman.

Similar things happen to people working on power, phones, oil, etc. the insurgents are trying to bring the country down across the board, just to make it hard for everyone and make the coalition look bad. The hope is we'll leave, create a vacuum, and then they can rule by force and exploit the country's resources for themselves again. It worked for the last 30 years so they don't have to use a lot of imagination to hold this vision. Democratic elections are an anathema to these thugs.

So ... what do you do about it? Well, no one can call 911 on these guys; the police forces aren't effective yet. And what reporting opportunities there are regularly get compromised (people placing lots of bad tips; or insurgents calling in a house that they previously packed with explosive -- police run in, they blow it up, killing the police). But one thing that is interesting to note is that the Iraqi's themselves don't fight back.

Try this sometime: go to someone's house in say, Texas; knock on the door and tell the father that you followed his daughter to work and that you are going to kill her, and them, if they don't all do what you say ... you wouldn't make it off the front porch. If he really believed you then you'd be deader than a possum on the Interstate. Now, sadly, in the Bay Area you might get a firm talking to by some hippie in Birkenstocks while his wife tells him to calm down and invites you in for dinner so you can discuss your differences... but in any straight-thinking part of the planet this just doesn't work. You would not live long enough to carry out your threat.

Why is it so different here? Well, all those who stand up to threats were pretty much killed under Saddam's regime ... or were part of the regime. Those that are left just aren't the type, apparently. People naturally cower to power here. It took an Iraqi American to explain this to me. He's seen both sides. It was his brother's neighbor who's house got blown up. His brother saw the guy with the RPG in the bushes out front waiting for his neighbor to come home ... and did nothing.

If you saw a guy outside your neighbor's house with an RPG, what would you do? Okay, let's assume you couldn't call the police. Then what? You'd call your neighbor on his cell before he got home, right? Not here, apparently you're too afraid of being an informant. Where I come from, you'd help your neighbor take the guy out before he could do any damage or hurt anyone. Not here. Not now. Not with the people who are left.

So, what do we do? We keep peace as best we can. We bolster the Iraqi police and military in any way we can. We make sure the election goes on as planned. If the Sunni's decide not to vote then they can be the Shiite's punching bags for a term, they'll play ball eventually. Once the police here start operating effectively, and can really take the offensive in this battle, things will change. It'll take time. But it'll happen.

I for one am looking forward to being back someplace where a serious threat on someone's family has a more reasonable response than submission.

Posted by rick at January 12, 2005 09:54 AM