Thursday, August 04, 2005

Real flesh and blood people are dying...

Regular commenter Matthew Goggins lost an acquaintance in Iraq.

Last night, Steven and his translator, Noor Al-Khal, were abducted off the street in Basra and subsequently shot and dumped outside. Noor Al-Khal is hospitalized in serious condition, but Steven was killed.

His murder was perhaps in retaliation for an op-ed of his that appeared in this past Sunday's New York Times. The op-ed is highly critical of "Islamic extremists and their Western-trained police enforcers" in Basra. His murder may also have been meant to keep him from writing his forthcoming book about Basra and southern Iraq.

From my added hyperlink:

... security sector reform is failing the very people it is intended to serve: average Iraqis who simply want to go about their lives. As has been widely reported of late, Basran politics (and everyday life) is increasingly coming under the control of Shiite religious groups, from the relatively mainstream Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq to the bellicose followers of the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr. Recruited from the same population of undereducated, underemployed men who swell these organizations' ranks, many of Basra's rank-and-file police officers maintain dual loyalties to mosque and state.

In May, the city's police chief told a British newspaper that half of his 7,000-man force was affiliated with religious parties. This may have been an optimistic estimate: one young Iraqi officer told me that "75 percent of the policemen I know are with Moktada al-Sadr - he is a great man." And unfortunately, the British seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it.

The fact that the British are in effect strengthening the hand of Shiite organizations is not lost on Basra's residents.

"No one trusts the police," one Iraqi journalist told me. "If our new ayatollahs snap their fingers, thousands of police will jump." Mufeed al-Mushashaee, the leader of a liberal political organization called the Shabanea Rebellion, told me that he felt that "the entire force should be dissolved and replaced with people educated in human rights and democracy."

I often disagree with Matthew Goggins on many points, but on this we can agree: real people are caught up in this. This is not talk radio continued by other means, but it is people sacrificing their lives. Real lives.

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