The Iraq Conflict: Generals, Take Note: Peace-Keeping Requires More Courage Than War ; MILITARY ANALYSIS

By Bellamy, Christopher | The Independent (London, England), April 9, 2003 | Go to article overview
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The Iraq Conflict: Generals, Take Note: Peace-Keeping Requires More Courage Than War ; MILITARY ANALYSIS


Bellamy, Christopher, The Independent (London, England)


IF THE US forces in Baghdad want to reassure the Iraqis that Saddam and his apparatus of terror are removed, and to secure the city, they will have to get out of their armoured vehicles. And out of their aeroplanes and helicopters. And get on their feet, on the ground. Get their flak jackets and helmets off. Get into cellars and up stairways. And be polite. And get brave. Like the British.

Like it or not, "force protection" has to go by the board if you want to be a peace-maker. Condoleezza Rice, the US National Security Adviser, is notorious for saying a couple of years ago that the role of the US 82nd Airborne Division was not to "escort kids to kindergarten".

Maybe not. But that has been translated as "peace-keeping is for wimps". Let's be clear about this. Peace-keeping requires even more courage - and certainly more brains - than war from behind an iron shield and a spray of lead, depleted uranium or high-explosive. For the Americans, the hard bit is about to start. The British have started it in Basra already.

Colonel Bob Stewart once tore me apart for an ill-informed dispatch from Bosnia a decade ago, for which I thank him. One winter night in Vitez, his battalion was conducting extensive patrols. But when the next day dawned he had more than a hundred Bosnian bodies to bury. Despite the patrols, the apparatus of the former regime had come back in the night and slit throats. A hundred or so. The same could happen in Baghdad tonight. But would we hear of it? And would the US-British war machine really care, in spite of its promises?

How can the Americans reassure the Iraqi population anywhere, let alone in Baghdad, that they are safe when the US forces still fight in their Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and A-10 armoured planes?When they attack, with little risk of reprisal, from great distances, and from the air?

The Iraqi people, whatever their desire to be "liberated", and that may not be as clear as the US and British leaders would like, have to be reassured that the Iraqi secret police are off their backs.

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