So why would smart people take a suicide job in the ING?
I think it's a couple of things: first, jobs really are hard to get in Iraq. There is no Iraqi economy. Sure, there's oil, but my dad always said the only time oil brings a lot of jobs is in the beginning, when they're building the pipeline. Once it's running, jobs get scarce. The only locals who get rich off a pipeline are the crooked bureaucrats.
And thanks to Saddam, Iraq's been out of the world economy loop for generations. No internet, no outsourced telemarketing jobs, no software millionaires, no Mochaccino frappe. The only jobs you can get are the kind where you carry a gun and can't get life insurance.
And that's the one kind of job Iraqi men really know. Under Saddam, the Iraqi Army was the fourth-biggest in the world, with 900,000 men. Considering there are only 24 million Iraqis, that's a lot of vets. And this was no slacker peacetime army, either. Iraq's been at war for most of the past generation. From 1980-88 they were in an all-out war with Iraq. Then they attacked Kuwait. After we kicked their asses out of there, they had big rebellions in Kurdistan and the Shiite zone. Last year we gave them a refresher course in conventional war, and now they're doing advanced work on urban guerrilla stuff.
So most Iraqi men know the Army, know weapons, just aren't as fazed by organized violence as we'd be. If you go to sleep with small arms fire and wake up with car bombs, you learn to deal with it. People can get used to anything -- war, Fresno, the Black Plague, whatever.
So if you make it worth their while, they'll join. Whether they'll fight, that's another question. We paid a lot of South Vietnamese to put on the ARVN uniform, but we never convinced most of them to fight. And frankly, compared to the ING, ARVN is starting to look like the Wehrmacht. The ING just flat-out refused to attack Fallujah back in April. They won't even patrol with our troops in most towns, because we draw too much fire. These ING recruits are getting the big squeeze from both sides. That's how guerrilla war works: the idea is to make it impossible for anybody to stay neutral.
The insurgents' argument is simple: no matter how much the Americans are paying you, it won't do you much good if you die before you can collect your first paycheck. When they splatter a line of cop recruits, it's a message: find yourself another career, guys. And they have other scarier ways of making the point. For example, they kidnapped the two sons of an officer from that pitiful "Fallujah Brigade" we set up and told him the kids were dead unless he gave himself up. He did -- made a video apologizing for collaborating and was never seen again. He's fertilizing the desert somewhere, and his sons too, probably.
Our terms are pretty simple too: if you want to work at all, work for us because we're the only paying concern in town.
The ordinary Iraqi man has to make a guess about who's going to win. If he joins the Iraqi National Guard, survives his first five minutes in uniform, and the Americans win, he's set for life -- because an army job in a messed-up country like Iraq means power, bribes, respect. But if we get sick of it and leave like we did in South Vietnam, he and his family are going to die a slow, nasty way.
If you want to get really sick, just read about what happened to the Algerians who collaborated with the French after the French sailed off and left them to the mercy of the rebels. The ones who killed themselves and their families were the smart ones; they got off easy. The others... man, it was too much even for me. So all in all, career counseling day at an Iraqi high school must be a tricky job.