Intelligence: August 18, 2003


Using a technique proven effective in domestic crime fighting, American troops are offering cash for information in Iraq. This is nothing new for military operations. During the occupation of Japan and Germany after World War II, paid informers were essential in cracking down on various criminal activities (black marketers, and various other gangsters) as well as political opponents (Soviet spies and unrepentant Nazis and Japanese militarists.) In Iraq, coalition intelligence were quick to pick up the Baath Party's use of cash to drive their armed opposition. Rewards were offered (paid in U.S. dollars) for attacks on coalition troops, sabotage of Iraqi infrastructure and, especially, killing or wounding coalition soldiers. It was probably also noticed that the Israelis had been very successful in keeping their intelligence network viable inside Palestinian areas by offering rewards for services. Actually, cash has long been a popular weapon in Middle Eastern conflicts. During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90), the various warring militias kept the conflict going by paying their "fighters" salaries and, in some cases, benefits (health care, schooling for children, pensions.) In Iraq, Saddam maintained his power with a combination of terror, and cash rewards for useful services. During the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam paid large awards, in cash or goods (like automobiles) to the families of soldiers killed in the unpopular conflict. In the 2001 Afghanistan war, American victory was bought with a combination of smart bombs and millions of dollars of cash to get warlords to switch sides. The Taliban had earlier used the same technique, especially for warlords who were too powerful, and thus too expensive, to fight. In Iraq, the rewards (of $100-500) for things like the location of roadside bombs and weapons caches has already paid off. Giving this program publicity is another important issue, for the more people who know about the rewards program, the more will be tempted to cash in.


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