October 11, 2004

Say hello to your army

We all know the numbers: Bush claims 100,000 security personnel have been trained in Iraq. At most Iraq has maybe 39,000 police officers and maybe—maybe—5,000 actual soldiers. And many of those police officers haven't gone through full training. But what about the ones who have gone through full training? Meet Mr. Muhammed:
After almost eight weeks at the academy, Mr. Muhammed had learned the basics of law enforcement: how to handcuff prisoners and search cars, how to properly detain a suspect, the fundamentals of Iraqi law. "But what surprised me totally," he told me through a translator, as his fellow cadets nodded in wondrous agreement, "was this whole concept of human rights!"

A few days later, Officer Muhammed was sent out with a pistol to protect and serve in a city under constant attack from car bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

"That's a standard of training Americans would never accept," said Gerald F. Burke, a retired Massachusetts State Police major who spent more than a year as an adviser to Baghdad police commanders. "It's a standard the Iraqis wouldn't accept if they didn't have to. Really, it's just an excuse for us to be able to say, 'Hey, we tried.' ''

So even if Mr. Bush's numbers are correct, to claim 125,000 Iraqis will be "fully trained" for the Iraqi Army, National Guard, police and security services by year's end is to redefine the term so far downward as to be meaningless. Adnan Muhammed, in fact, is among the best trained police officers, one of only about 8,000 raw recruits who completed the full eight-week academy course. Thousands more were simply handed a badge and blue shirt on their first day.
The problem is obvious. In a country with a near 60 percent unemployment rate, just about anyone will sign up for a uniform when you can make, what, 120 bucks a month. In an ideal, or a semi-ideal, or even a badly-conceived world, someone like Mr. Muhammed would never be a police officer. He has no will to fight. None of them do. But that's the way it goes. This isn't a badly conceived world; this is the Bush administration's world. They don't know how to create jobs in the United States; how on earth did anyone expect them to create jobs in Iraq? They got so kiddy over their "shock therapy" reforms, they forgot to note that when you quickly privatize industries, a lot of people tend to get laid off.

Oy. On the positive side, I should note that Maj. Gen. David Petraeus has apparently done a much better job of training the Iraqi forces than Walter Slocum ever did. I should also note, I guess, that the above op-ed is a little unfair, since Petraeus has spent more time training officers and security leaders than the actual ground troops. But still. Still.
-- Brad Plumer 11:33 PM || ||