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The War Nerd April 16, 2004
 
It's Not Nam, But It'll Do
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
Page 3 of 4
 
The British begged Bremer to keep the Iraqi army going, give it new uniforms and hire it as local mercenaries. They were thinking smart. They actually know something about colonizing Arabs. But Bush's people weren't listening to the Brits or anybody else. They were too busy lying to themselves that Iraqis were just Ohio Presbyterians in funny clothes, real nice folks under those turbans.

So we shut down the Iraqi army overnight. Boom! Suddenly there were 500,000 armed men out of a job, hanging around the house getting more and more pissed off. First they tried asking for their jobs back, then they staged demonstrations, and finally they just said the Hell with it, I'll dig up the AK-47 and RPG I buried in the back yard and start killing the foreigners who put me out of a job. From what I hear, the Brits are so pissed off with Bush that they've finally started saying we told you so. They're right, too. In fact they come off looking pretty good. One of the stories you probably haven't been seeing is how quiet things seem to be in Basra, where the British troops are in control. Basra's a Shiite city, just like Najaf and Karbala -- so how come it hasn't blown up like they have?

As far as I can tell, it's because the Brits are just plain better than us at handling the locals. They let the Shiites live the way they feel comfortable living. And that really ticked off Bremer's people, who started leaking stories about how the Brits were a bunch of Arab-loving weaklings.

I found this article from March 24, where some reporter from Dow Jones news is whining about how the Brits are taking it too easy on the locals:

"Some Basra residents complain that Britain, whose troops occupy Basra, is turning a blind eye while the religious establishment usurps the running of the city through intimidation and threats against secular residents. Explaining why the British are loath to intervene, Maj. David King, a British spokesman, says: 'We are not here to dictate our way of life,' but merely 'to provide a basic foundation to get Iraqis back on their feet.'"

We weren't going to let the Shiites live their way. Nope, we had to change them every which way at once. We were even letting Baptist missionaries in! How stupid is that? If I saw a foreign army riding shotgun for jerks like the Pentecostals I had to listen to when I was a kid, I'd probably turn Shiite and start spraying the Bible-bashers myself.

You can't mess with people that way and expect them to wait around for you to get smart forever. Especially not hotheads like the Shiites. So at the beginning of April, it boiled over. Riots, sniping, you name it. But there again, the way the Brits handled it was so much smarter. On April 3 the Shiites in Basra challenged the British just like they did the Americans. A bunch of armed Shiites stomped in and took over the governor's office in Basra. But the Brits realized it wasn't the time to get tough. So they made the visiting Jihadis some tea and cakes or whatever, and let them yell and talk big for a while. After a few days, the Shiites got bored and went home. It worked, in other words.

And don't think it's because the Brits are soft. They may be a lot of things, but not soft. Who do you think was the first to use poison gas against Kurdish villages? If you said Saddam, no lollipop for you. It was the RAF, with the personal approval of Winston Churchill. There's nobody tougher than the Brits. But they're smart too, cold-blooded. They realized the time wasn't right to piss off the Shiites -- not with the Sunni triangle already worse than Compton on a three-day weekend. So they played nice. Result: on April 4, Najaf blew up, with huge riots, 40 Shiites and 2 GIs dead. But in Basra and the rest of the British-occupied parts of southern Iraq, no casualties.

As for what we do now: I don't know. I've been going over different scenarios and I can't see any good way out. It may be too late for us to get smart in Iraq. Especially with the Shiites, because people who have that thing about martyrdom aren't the forgiving kind. They're always getting worked up about something horrible that happened to their ancestors 500 years ago. You can bet that the womenfolk in these Shiite towns are sewing little memorial hankies for those two Shiites who jumped under that M1 tank. They'll be heroes in the neighborhood. And all the little guys in grade school are going to want to grow up just like them.


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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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