Iraq: March 15, 2005


The Iraqi army and police have a casualty rate over four times that of coalition forces. Amazingly, this has not had any apparent effect on recruiting. When suicide car bombs go off at recruiting centers, more volunteers are lined up in the same place the next day. While most recruits persist because they need a job, for an increasing number, it's all about revenge. Most soldiers are married men who live at home. When police and soldiers are killed, their neighbors in uniform feel an obligation to get revenge. In Sunni Arab areas, the police often know who is doing the killing. If not the individuals, than the family or clan. That's why the terrorists try to haul their dead away. But enough enemy dead and wounded are found, plus captives from raids, to know which families are hostile. The Iraqi police know how to play the family angle, which to Western eyes is bizarre. For example, if it is clear that the family is behind the attackers, then arresting the head of the family (usually an extended family, often with several dozen members) often gets the attention, and often the surrender, of the terrorists. 

While many Iraqis know a lot of family details, U.S. forces have had to apply their computers and software (genealogy and police stuff, especially) to figure out who is who. This was how Saddam was captured over a year ago, and how an increasing number of terrorist leaders are being tracked down and captured. In the past week, former Saddam bodyguard Marwan Taher Abdul Rashid and his cousin, Abdullah Maher Abdul Rashid (also the brother-in-law of Saddam's son, Qusai), were captured because a family tree was illuminated and shaken. Many members of the extended Saddam clan have been found involved in funding and leading the attacks on the government and coalition troops. Money has been used as a weapon, and the Baath Party/pro-Saddam groups spend over $100,000 for each coalition soldier they kill. Thus the policy against paying ransoms. It's literally blood money. This is especially true because indications are that the terrorists are running into cash flow problems. As the tide turns, many of the terrorist paymasters are shifting their spending to themselves and their families. With war crimes trials now under way, and more Iraqi police out there knocking on doors, paying for dead cops and American soldiers is becoming a dangerous proposition. Too dangerous for a man of means. 


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