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Saturday, March 22, 2003

Bad signs

From Tacitus

ABC News just aired a very troubling report from John Donvan, who was able to travel unescorted today in Safwan and other areas already overrun by Allied forces. He reports general hostility and suspicion among the locals (apparently they wanted to know if the Israelis were coming to take over), demands for immediate aid, and, disturbingly, active Iraqi irregulars still mounting attacks along the Kuwaiti border. (One wonders whether they had anything to do with today's attack on Camp Pennsylvania.)

Going on Donvan's anecdotal evidence, it seems that the local hostility stemmed mostly from a fear that self-government would be denied, and that aid would not be forthcoming. Three countermeasures immediately spring to mind:

Whatever reorganization of the civil administration is planned needs to follow as soon as possible behind the advancing Allied armies. If it does not include a strong component of local self-rule, it should. Whatever administration (and American administrator) is set up on high in Baghdad, the people of Safwan and every other hamlet in Iraq ought to feel in reason control of their own governance.

Civil affairs and psyops units have to do a much better job if Shi'as (who ought to welcome us) in Safwan think we're the leading edge of an Israeli occupation. Granted, they're probably concentrating on coaxing surrenders from conscript units on the front, but this is a task that cannot be ignored.

CA and psyops won't be able to do much of a job, though, unless aid -- lots of aid -- is delivered ASAP. Why we didn't have container ships loaded with pharmaceuticals ready to offload at Umm Qasr as soon as we took it, I'll never know. The Iraqis probably aren't starving, but they have lacked for decent medical care for over a decade. American aid personnel curing childhood ailments, conducting vaccinations, and rendering assistance to those wounded in the crossfire would go a long way toward establishing goodwill.

All in all, a rather discouraging development. This isn't going to be over this time next week. Not by a long shot.

UPDATE: This NYT piece has a surrendering Iraqi colonel who hates Hussein because -- get this -- he's almost certainly a secret American agent.

Building a civil society here is going to take a while.

All I can say is good luck. The Bush administration doesn't do nice and it doesn't do smart. It does bully. Look what they do to their fellow Republicans if they don't get with the program. Does anyone think they are going to futz around with a bunch of villagers?

All of you irrelevant anti-war protesters out there get out your pens and papers right now and writea firm but polite note to your congressman telling him that you want him to make Bush stop cutting taxes for his rich friends and spend some time getting the world stop hating us. Insist that he demand that George W. Bush allow us to be in on the planning for post war Iraq so that it can be done right. Stomp your little feet and threaten to hold your breath and turn blue if he refuses to do it.

Oh, and be sure and tell him you are a Republican. Democrats are best seen and not heard.

slightly edited for clarity.