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NYT Magazine- The Way of the Commandos (Iraq's Counterinsurgency Force)

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maddezmom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-01-05 06:56 AM
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NYT Magazine- The Way of the Commandos (Iraq's Counterinsurgency Force)
The Way of the Commandos

Published: May 1, 2005

etting to Know the General

n a country of tough guys, Adnan Thabit may be the toughest of all. He was both a general and a death-row prisoner under Saddam Hussein. He favors leather jackets no matter the weather, his left index finger extends only to the knuckle (the rest was sliced off in combat) and he responds to requests from supplicants with grunts that mean ''yes'' or ''no.'' Occasionally, a humble aide approaches to spray perfume on his hands, which he wipes over his rugged face.

General Adnan, as he is known, is the leader of Iraq's most fearsome counterinsurgency force. It is called the Special Police Commandos and consists of about 5,000 troops. They have fought the insurgents in Mosul, Ramadi, Baghdad and Samarra. It was in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, where, in early March, I spent a week with Adnan, himself a Sunni, and two battalions of his commandos. Samarra is Adnan's hometown, and he had come to retake it. As the offensive to drive out the insurgents got under way, the only area securely under Adnan's control was a barricaded enclave around the town hall, where he grimly presided over matters of war and peace, but mostly war, chain-smoking Royal cigarettes at a raised desk in the mayor's office. With a jowly face set in a permanent scowl, Adnan is perfectly suited to the grim realities of Iraq, and he knows it. When an admiring American colonel compared him to Marlon Brando in ''The Godfather,'' Adnan took it as a compliment and smiled.

Early one evening, I was sitting in his office when an officer entered with a click of his heels -- an Iraqi salute of sorts. He reported to Adnan that a rebel weapons cache had been discovered, and Adnan congratulated him -- but issued a warning. ''If even one AK-47 is stolen,'' he said, ''I will kill you.'' After a pause, he smiled and refined the threat. ''No,'' he said, ''I will kill your'' -- and he used a coarse word that referred to the officer's most private body part. There was nervous laughter. Everyone seemed certain that not a single gun, or single anything, would go missing.

Not long ago, hard men like Adnan, especially Sunnis, were giving orders to no one. Six weeks after the fall of Baghdad, the Coalition Provisional Authority dismissed the Sunni-led Iraqi Army, and the United States military set out to rebuild Iraq's armed forces from the ground up, training new officers and soldiers rather than calling on those who knew how to fight but had done so in the service of Saddam Hussein. By late last year, though, it had become clear that the new American-trained forces were not shaping up as an effective fighting force, and the old guard was called upon. Now people like Adnan, a former Baathist, have been given the task of defeating the insurgency. The new strategy is showing signs of success, but it is a success that may carry its own costs.

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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-01-05 07:32 AM
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1. I think I'm going to puke.
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maddezmom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-01-05 07:46 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. I share that reaction
Of course, propaganda need not be wholly accurate to be effective. The real problem with the program, according to its most vocal critics -- representatives of human rights groups -- is that it violates the Geneva Conventions. The detainees shown on ''Terrorism in the Grip of Justice'' have not been charged before judicial authorities, and they appear to be confessing under duress. Some detainees are cut and bruised. In one show, a former policeman with two black eyes confessed to killing two police officers in Samarra; a few days after the broadcast, the former policeman's family told reporters, his corpse was delivered to them. The government's human rights minister has initiated an investigation.

''Terrorism in the Grip of Justice'' is a ratings success because it humiliates the insurgency, satisfying a popular desire for vengeance against the men who spread terror and death. Yet the program plyas rough not only with its confessing captives but also with the rules and laws that govern the conduct of war. As I learned in Samarra, this approach was not just for television. It was Adnan's effective yet brutal way of conducting a counterinsurgency.

It's a long read and very disturbing
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-01-05 08:02 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. It's an old story.
Terror has always been the first choice in trying to suppress
popular resistance, and it has never worked very well.

This sort of propaganda effort will not change the outcome.
Mr. Adnan had best stay off the street.
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libodem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-01-05 12:38 PM
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4. Civil War
Tribe against tribe. Think Mormons against Catholics.
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