|05-13-2007, 01:15 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2001
The struggle of Iraq's police
I ran across this on Google News, and thought it provided a different look at the war... Most particularly the challenges that the cops face on the ground as they try to pull their country together...
Good cop, bad cop? The struggle of Iraq's police
SAMARRA, Iraq, May 8, 2007 (AFP) - The day before he was killed in a bomb attack, Colonel Jalil al-Dulaimi was woken from his midday nap by four US soldiers who had come to encourage his efforts to create a local police force capable of bringing law and order to the restive town of Samarra.
"It's been a rough week for the IP (Iraqi police) but I wanted to let you know that I'm still here with you," said Captain Eugene "Buddy" Ferris, the commander of the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne's Charlie Company.
Dulaimi, a formidable Sunni officer from the western city of Ramadi and a former agent of Saddam Hussein's dreaded secret police, seemed a good pick to bring order to Samarra, an overwhelmingly Sunni town with a deep streak of nostalgia for the days of dictatorship.
Under Saddam he had helped put down the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in the 1980s and 1990s, fights that left gnarled maroon scars up and down his bulky arms. "I fought in the north, I fought in the south, and now I'm fighting in the middle," he said, jokingly gesturing at his rear end.
Now he was pitted against a new enemy, a shadowy network of Al-Qaeda linked fighters that was bombing the city, carrying out hits on tribal leaders, and terrorising his policemen. His 300-strong force has dropped by a third.
"They know we are strong now, so the terrorists are going after us. Our resources -- supplies, weapons, manpower -- are not enough to face them," Dulaimi said. "But if we don't go out the terrorists will get even stronger because they will think we are weak."
Dulaimi believed in the old methods. He wanted his men to don masks and go out in civilian cars to ambush fake checkpoints set up by local militants. He wanted to beat prisoners and execute some of them, Ferris said, but the Americans wouldn't let him.
"You only have two choices in Iraq. You can have democracy, and then everyone has all kinds of freedom -- the freedom to kill, the freedom to blow things up. Or you can enforce the law the way we did before," Dulaimi said.
Ferris did not necessarily agree with this unfashionable stance, but this was Samarra, and Dulaimi was one of the few commanders he could find who was actually brave enough to patrol the streets. "You can't catch the devil with an angel," Ferris said.
In any case, Ferris had a bigger problem on his hands than an excess of zeal among some of his allies. Around 200 members of the local contingent of the National Police had announced they were going off on leave the next day, without waiting for their relief unit.
If they left Ferris would have to take their weapons in order to prevent them from turning up on the streets in the wrong hands, and his soldiers might have to spend the night at their headquarters to prevent it from being looted.
So, late that night, five armoured Humvees rolled into the headquarters and another group of soldiers, this time led by First Lieutenant Charlie Hodges, sat down with another Iraqi police commander known only as Major Ali.
The rotund colonel glared at the Americans as he tended the coals of a waterpipe behind his desk, clearly unnerved by the surprise visit. "Inshallah (God willing) we will wait until the guys from Baghdad come before we go on vacation," he muttered.
Hodges needed more. He asked for a firm commitment, several times, but Ali could not promise anything without invoking the Almighty.
"I need a straight answer," he said through his translator. "It can't be God willing. I need to know whether you are staying or leaving."
Eventually Ali conceded. Hodges then asked if the national police would join the platoon on patrol that night.
"My men were supposed to go on patrol tonight from 9:30 to 1:30, but they are very tired," Ali said with a world-weary exhalation of fragrant white smoke. "We're all tired," Hodges replied.
Ali eventually gave in. The US soldiers climbed back into their armoured Humvees, the ragtag national police into their pickup trucks, and everyone rolled out for a blessedly uneventful two-hour patrol through the city's dark streets.
Over in the western province of Anbar, a group of tribes known as the "Anbar Awakening" have thrown their support behind the police in order to fight Al-Qaeda, but in Samarra there's a "totally different dynamic," Ferris said.
"Here the sheikhs aren't that strong."
There are no Sunni tribes to rally against the creeping insurgency and the phantom religious fanatics that haunt the town. There are only tough cops like Colonel Dulaimi, soft cops like Major Ali and the over-worked Americans.
The next morning, gunfire erupted outside a checkpoint near the city's police headquarters. Gunmen strafed the compound from three directions with machine gun fire and rockets.
A US platoon was dispatched, but as it drove out the front gate, the base quaked from a massive explosion about 200 metres (yards) away.
Policemen who took part in the battle later said that Dulaimi led the charge to relieve the embattled checkpoint. When a yellow truck came barreling through he stood in the middle of the street and fired a machine gun through the windshield.
He killed the driver, they said, but not soon enough to prevent the payload from exploding.
US troops chased the fighters away, but the carefully orchestrated attack had claimed the lives of 12 Iraqi police and injured dozens more.
And so that evening Charlie Company's mission was once again to keep the police at their posts. Fifty metres away from the crater, down a street lined with twisted shop shutters and bullet-riddled police vehicles, 30 cops huddled on the sidewalk.
The Americans had taken their weapons. They still wanted to go home.
"Twelve people are dead and so many are wounded," said one of the Iraqi officers. "There's no point. There's just no point. Our base is destroyed."