BAGHDAD, Iraq April 12 —
The people of Baghdad's Karadeh neighborhood, fed up with
thievery, took the law into their own hands: They grabbed
Kalashnikov rifles, set up roadblocks and checked passing cars for
When they found it, they knew what to do. They confiscated the
loot and beat the culprits.
Even law enforcement was anarchic in Iraq on Friday. Unchecked by
American and British forces, some Iraqis looted and burned; their
neighbors cowered behind barricaded doors, and pleaded for
intervention to restore civic peace to a country still enmeshed in
"Tell the Americans to stop the killing and the looting. We can't
live like this much longer, with Muslims looting other Muslims,"
said 41-year-old Jabryah Aziz. "I need to feel safe so I can go and
collect my food ration."
American leaders walked a fine line between alienating Iraqis
with an iron fist and doing too little to stop the chaos. They say
their top priority, for now, must be fighting the war. They say the
logistics of building new law enforcement agencies are daunting.
Their troops tote extraordinarily powerful weaponry in the
streets of Iraqi cities, but they hew to rules that they must avoid
deadly force against looters.
And they insist that the current chaos is a phase that will pass.
In southern Iraq, where coalition forces have been in place for
weeks, looting has eased, noted Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"I think what you're seeing is on the way to freedom, the
reaction of the people to oppression," White House spokesman Ari
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisted that "we do feel an
obligation to assist in providing security, and coalition forces are
doing that. Where they see looting, they are stopping it."
The State Department is sending 26 police and judicial officers
to Iraq as part of what eventually is expected to be a team of
nearly 1,200 to help restore order, spokesman Richard Boucher
They will be part of a group led by Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the
retired general chosen by the Bush administration to run the initial
Iraqi civil administration under American occupation. Boucher did
not say when the team would arrive in Iraq.
In Baghdad, you could walk down streets and see Iraqis carrying
televisions, air conditioners, tools, office furniture, potted
flowers and waving to American soldiers who stood by
"We'll maintain security as well as we can, but we are not a
police force," said Col. Steve Hummer, commanding officer of the 7th
In Mosul, hospitals reported their ambulances had been stolen at
gunpoint, and townspeople plundered the central bank, grabbing wads
of money and tossing bills in the air.
There, too, residents took up arms to stop the looting leaving
mosques after dusk prayers and setting up checkpoints, using clubs
and small arms to persuade thieves to give up their booty, according
to Al-Jazeera television.
Army Maj. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokesman for the Central
Command, said the military can draw on military police and other
troops trained in crowd control. She said troops were being shifted
around the battlefield to handle policing efforts.
Special operations forces were sent to Mosul to try to preserve
order amid arson, looting and shootings.
Nielson-Green said members of the Army's 4th Infantry Division
just arriving in Kuwait, after being denied access to Iraq through
Turkey could be tapped.
Timothy J. Lomperis, a military historian and chairman of the
political science department at St. Louis University, said there
should have been a "follow on" force dedicated to stabilizing Iraq,
immediately succeeding the combat forces.
But like some other military experts, he believes planners did
not commit enough troops to the war. Massive air support and a rapid
advance made up for that shortcoming, he said.
"Suddenly, you have to have people doing police work on the
ground," said Lomperis, who served two tours as an intelligence
officer in Vietnam. "And you can't have A-10 Warthogs dealing with
Said David R. Segal, director of the Center for Military
Organization at the University of Maryland: "I think we did much
less clear thinking about what we should do after we declare victory
than what we did before we declare victory."
He expects other nations perhaps nations that carry less imperial
baggage than the United States to help police the country until the
Iraqis can take over.
The United States can't simply ask the old regime's police to
take over. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of the Central Command said
when Americans entered Baghdad, they found that police were using
their radios to call for and adjust fire in support of the
Instead, the military aims to nurture new law enforcement groups.
According to a reporter for The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer attached
to the 82nd Airborne, paratroopers were taken aback Thursday when
they were stopped in the town of Diwaniyah by Iraqis with assault
But they meant the Americans no harm. Their red armbands
identified them as members of a "freedom force," enlisted with local
sheiks to serve as police. "Return Iraq back to the Iraqi people
that's our objective," Col. Arnold Bray told the sheiks.
For the moment, aside from these budding efforts and those of
vigilantes, the American and British forces were the law in Iraq.
Marines were patrolling hospitals in Baghdad to prevent them from
being stripped of their vital supplies, and in Mosul, U.S. forces
declared a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
And rules to avoid using deadly force to maintain order do not
preclude the use of such force entirely.
Brooks said five Iraqis were engaged by British forces on Friday
as they tried to rob a bank in Basra. Warned to stop, they did not
and were shot by the British.
"Looting went down a lot in Basra," Brooks said.
|A torn photo of President Saddam
Hussein lays on what used to be a mosaic of former President
Bush at the entrance of the Al Rashid hotel after it was
looted in Baghdad Friday April 11, 2003. Widespread looting
continues in the Iraqi capital. It is not known if looters or
US forces who had previously secured the building before
leaving removed Bush's mosaic. (AP Photo/Jerome
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