History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Monday, May 10, 2004

    The New Iraqi Army

    Mohammed, brother of Omar, at the Iraqi blog Iraq the Model has a new post up, discussing the new Iraqi Army.

    An excerpt:

    A relative of mine was forced as the millions of Iraqis to serve in Saddam’s army. He was poor and peaceful and couldn’t stand the humiliation and the torture that service meant. He lived in Baghdad and served in Basrah. He was paid about 10 thousand Iraqi Dinars a month, which equaled about 5 US $ at that time, while the ride from his place to his unit cost about 2 or 3 thousand Dinars. Above all he had to bribe the sergeants and the officers only to avoid the hell they could make his life there, as they could’ve made it a lot worse. Others more fortunate paid money to the officer in charge to stay at home and the officer would arrange it to look like they are serving. This may amount to 250-300 thousand Iraqi Dinars a month, and it was a very common practice at that time. And as tens of thousands of Iraqis, he decided to run away. He remained a fugitive for years, hiding from the eyes of the military police. He couldn’t see his family more than 2 or 3 times in the year. We helped him find a job and a place to hide where they couldn’t find him.
    Few days ago I was visiting his family to pay our respect in the 1st annual anniversary of his father’s death.
    When I saw my relative, and despite the nature of the occasion, I felt happy. Here’s a free man. I smiled as I said, “you must be very happy to be free again, and not fear the MP”. He said, "you can’t imagine! It’s like being born again. I’ve never felt so free before”. “But what are you doing for a living now? I hope you’ve found a job”. I asked. He smiled as he said, "I volunteered in the new army". “Really! I thought you’d never wear a uniform after that terrible experience” he replied "Oh no, this is entirely different". I said, “ I'm sure it is, but who convinced you to do so!? And when did that happen?” "A friend of mine who volunteered before I did told me some nice stuff that encouraged me to do the same, so I volunteered about a couple of months ago". He replied. “So tell me about it, are you happy with this job?” I asked. "You can’t imagine! It’s nothing that we’ve learned or knew about the military life". He answered. “I expected it to be so, but can you tell me about it” I asked and I didn’t have to ask anymore, as my relative started talking excitedly without a stop.

    This is extremely good news, and while not mitigating the disaster arising from the prisoner abuse scandal, certainly demonstrates that all is not bad in Iraq. This new Iraqi Army could prove essential to a democratic Iraq, in a manner similar to that of the Turkish Army. Turkey has something rather unique in its social contract, the army is the "Guardian of the Constitution." Turkey is a secular Muslim majority nation, and it is an unsteady balance at times, with Islamists attempting to de-secularize the government. If the military feels that the Islamists have too much power, and/or are attempting to subvert the Constitution, they move in, and block the Islamization of Turkey. Iraq's army could have a similar role. It would have to be carefully done, of course, to prevent a military coup, and a number of tight restrictions on the role of military officers and civilian office would have to be addressed. Perhaps a provision that if the military moves in, new elections have to be held in a month would work, and a provision prohibiting serving army officers from running for office would also be good.

    The Iraqi Army could serve as an important integrating force for the nation, impressing upon Iraqis that they are Iraqis first, and Shia, Sunnis or Kurds second. Tribal ties would also need to be heavily suppressed. The military must be extremely professional, and would probably do better to ere on the side of troops quality, forsaking a large military in the process. As Israel has shown, however, a small military can do quite a lot, with decent leadership, training and motivation. The US can help supply equipment. The US can train the Iraqis well, and can even act as much of the higher level leadership for a time. But only the Iraqis can supply the motivation. Good pay, good conditions and lots of respect shown can help, but ultimately it is up to them. If this relative of Mohammed is any indication, the motivation shouldn't be a problem.

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