The Seamy Side of the “Surge”

The Seamy Side of the Surge

There is talk of the “success” of the “Surge” in Iraq, as if keeping more tired American boots on that dusty ground has magically reduced violence. The reality appears to be somewhat different.

Repeating a horrendous error made by the first U.S. occupation authority, gangs of local thugs have been assembled, armed, and paid to terrorize their Iraqi neighbors into tranquility. This has merely atomized the violence, breaking it up into smaller bits out of the sight of most Americans.

 ” . . . the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight.”
Nir Rosen, Rolling Stone, March 6, 2008

The plan is to “transition” these U.S.-paid gangs — Shia, Sunni, Kurd — into other lines of work or into legitimate, organized, disciplined Iraqi national defense forces (there is also a small privately-funded Chaldean militia).

There is a flock of flies in this fantasy ointment. Even while they are being paid American cash, these thugs are “transitioning” themselves— into full-fledged criminal enterprises. Like all “wise guys,” they think discipline is for suckers. Like all gangbangers, there is no way  they will leave their neighborhood turf to fight. Neighborhoods are now segregated along sectarian lines, and so are the U.S.-sponsored gangs; no way are gang members going to fight alongside members of other groups, let alone take orders from them. 

A new study of satellite imagery by UCLA researchers attributes the reduced level of violence in Baghdad not to U.S. troops but to a wave of Shia Muslim attacks on Sunni Muslims, “ethnic cleansing,” that coincided with the start of the increase in U.S. troop levels. This slaughter created a period of reduced conflict, not any  U.S. military action. So much for the “success” of the “Surge.” Murderous thugs from all factions have been getting arms and U.S. dollars to kill each other in the name of Freedom.

On the ground. accounts of these American-paid Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISVs), neighborhood watch groups, Concerned Local Citizens, Critical Infrastructure Security,Sahwa (“Awakening Councils”) and Abna al-Iraq (“Sons of Iraq”) running protection rackets and kidnapping Iraqi merchants and drivers  are too numerous to catalog.

“Most of them kind of operate like dons in their areas,” said 2nd Lt. Forrest Pierce, a platoon leader with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. They shake down local businessmen for protection money, seize rivals for links to the insurgency and are always angling for more men, more territory and more power.
David Botti, “Dinner With the Sons of Iraq,” Newsweek, July 15, 2008

Steven Simon points out that the new state of Iraq faced a similar problem in 1933 when it had to deal with tribes armed by the British to destroy earlier Ottoman rulers: “Now, U.S. strategy is . . . fostering the retribalization of Iraq all over again.” He calls this “The growth of warlordism.”

Besides guns and reflective vests, the American military issues an ID card to these “allies,” their license to steal. Americans will soon stop paying these thugs, and Iraq will theoretically take over, but Iraq’s logistical abilities are weak. It is expected that these U.S.-organized gangs will just lean harder on the locals to make up the financial difference.

The “Surge” is working, but just for Iraqi criminals and American politicians.


One Response to “The Seamy Side of the “Surge””

  1. John McCain and Iraq « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] with the troop increase, the U.S. formed and armed Iraqi paramilitary “Awakening” or “Sons of Iraq” units in all factions, and these keep a sort […]

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