Morning Report 12/10/04
The Baton Is Passed

Iraqis finally start handling their own people. So let's play some golf!

The Iraqi National Guard has been accused of abusing prisoners and their families, doctors, and even cops—at last, a sign of a seamless transition of power in Iraq from the U.S. to its puppet regime.

See, it's not only our National Guard that terrorizes ordinary Iraqis. Iraqi Guardsmen stand accused of "beating and abusing" the public they're supposed to protect, and some of them have already been fired for doing so, according to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.

Now that at least some authority has been smoothly transferred, Uncle Sam may finally have some time for, say, a little golf. But that game's not going too well, according to Asharq al-Awsat, a London-based pro-Saudi newspaper widely circulated in the Arab world (see cartoon).

Even the golf war isn't going well for Uncle Sam, according to Asharq al-Awsat. He's trying to putt our huge planet into a cup marked "U.S." Bet you a million dinar he doesn't hole out. (Asharq al-Awsat, courtesy of IWPR.net)

Meanwhile, the Iraqi public aren't playing around. They're fuming about these allegations of abuse by their own Guardsmen, who are "U.S.-backed and trained," according to the story by reporters Hussein Ali al-Yasiri and Imad al-Shara, on the ground in dangerous Baghdad. See their piece, which includes this passage:

    In recent weeks, there have been a number of complaints about Guardsmen beating and abusing members of the public.

    Farook Shamran, an investigator at a police station in the al-Beyaa suburb of Baghdad, says he was not only beaten up and accused of being a terrorist by Guardsmen, but also alleges that they stole a large sum of money from his vehicle.

    "My brother-in-law and I were arrested by Guardsmen who broke into our house one night. I showed them my police ID, but they beat us both and then arrested us. We were in custody for two days, during which time they beat us again and accused us of being insurgents," he said.

Shamran said he was released "eventually," but added:

    When I got back to my car, which the guards had kept the key to, I discovered they had taken the money I had left there. Almost $2,000 and 2 million Iraqi dinar [$1,300] had gone missing.

    It was stolen money we had recovered from a gang we arrested, and technically it belongs to the government.

    I tried to follow up on the incident and get an explanation but no one would talk to me. This isn't a police force—it's a bunch of thugs in uniform. Unless the government sorts this out quickly, the National Guard will become useless and corrupt.

Guardsmen are even hassling doctors. Bashar Ali, an orthopedist at al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad tells of his being ordered to treat one of their colleagues ahead of more urgent cases:

    They told me to ignore everyone else and treat their colleague first. When I refused, they started to slap and punch me. Other staff had to intervene to prevent them arresting me.

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It's good to see them handling things on their own. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz predicted even before the invasion that we'd be able to hand over the reins so the Iraqis could whip their own country into shape. He promised Congress: "The Iraqis themselves can provide a good deal of whatever manpower is necessary." (See this Bush Beat item for a punishing look at Wolfowitz.)

A fascinating sidelight to this is the way Iraqi Guardsmen are starting to dress and act. Spreading our version of democracy, we've set a good example for them, and they're following it. As the IWPR story notes:

    "It's as if some of them want to be like the Americans, but you can tell the Americans are professional and well-trained," said Jamal Jasim, a traffic policeman.

    "Their uniform looks quite like the U.S. military's, and they've started wearing black sunglasses and cutting their hair really short too. They also try to act like them, holding their rifles with their fingers on the trigger and using sign language rather than talking."

Sounds like they're emulating martinet Bernie Kerik, the ex-NYPD cop who got the training of Iraq's cops off and running away. These Iraqi Guardsmen are going Sipowicz on the public—but Sipowicz at least saves most of his beatings for people who deserve it.

Just as in the scandal involving the U.S. National Guard at Abu Ghraib, Iraqi National Guard officials blame a few troublemakers for the problem. Meanwhile, they're running roughshod over the populace:

    Members of the municipal council in the Baghdad neighborhood of Al-Rashid, who recently had a run-in with Guardsmen carrying out over-zealous searches of council members entering a meeting, said they weren't confident the situation would improve.

    "We asked for Guardsmen to come and provide security for a meeting we were having. But the lieutenant on duty was incredibly rude to the people they were searching," said Jacob al-Mosawi, a council member. "Even Saddam's henchmen didn't talk like that to normal people."

While Kerik, America's new security guard, futzes around with the "threat level" here, we may want to raise the threat level in Iraq even higher than it already is, thanks to the training standards he established during his stint there in 2003. Consult The Onion's color-coded Iraqi "Terror Alert System" for details.

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