New Policy in Iraq to Authorize G.I.'s to Shoot 0aLooters
By Patrick E. Tyler
Tuesday 13 May 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq United States military forces in Iraq will have 0athe authority to shoot looters on sight under a tough new security setup that 0awill include hiring more police officers and banning ranking members of the 0aBaath Party from public service, American officials said today.
The far more muscular approach to bringing order to postwar Iraq 0awas described by the new American administrator, L. Paul Bremer, at a meeting of 0asenior staff members today, the officials said. On Wednesday, Mr. Bremer is 0aexpected to meet with the leaders of Iraqi political groups that are seeking to 0aform an interim government by the end of the month. "He made it very clear that 0ahe is now in charge," said an official who attended the meeting today. "I think 0ayou are going to see a change in the rules of engagement within a few days to 0aget the situation under control."
Asked what this meant, the official replied, "They are going to 0astart shooting a few looters so that the word gets around" that assaults on 0aproperty, the hijacking of automobiles and violent crimes will be dealt with 0ausing deadly force.
How Iraqis will be informed of the new rules is not clear. 0aAmerican officials in Iraq have access to United States-financed radio stations, 0awhich could broadcast the changes.
A tougher approach over all appears to be at the core of Mr. 0aBremer's mandate from President Bush to save the victory in Iraq from a descent 0ainto anarchy, a possibility feared by some Iraqi political leaders if steps are 0anot taken quickly to check violence and lawlessness.
But imposing measures that call for the possible killing of 0ayoung, unemployed or desperate Iraqis for looting appears to carry a certain 0alevel of risk because of the volatile sentiments in the streets here. Gas lines 0asnake through neighborhoods, garbage piles up, and the increasing heat 0afrequently provides combustion for short tempers, which are not uncommonly 0adirected at the American presence here.
Mr. Bremer did not spell out to senior members of the American 0aand British reconstruction team whether his authority would supersede that of 0aLt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the land forces commander in the country.
But in tackling the security problem, Mr. Bremer will confront 0athe need for a police force, and the difficulty of building a credible one on 0athe wreckage of Saddam Hussein's hated security establishment.
The officials said Mr. Bremer told his staff that his urgent 0apriority was to rebuild a police force, especially in Baghdad, so it could 0abecome visible and available "on the streets."
Another tough measure that the officials said Mr. Bremer was 0aeager to make public is a decree on de-Baathification, the process of weeding 0aout senior members of Mr. Hussein's political establishment to ensure that the 0atotalitarian principles on which the Baath Party ruled are not perpetuated.
American officials said the decree on the Baath Party will 0aprohibit its officials above certain ranks from serving in future governments. 0aRehabilitation procedures will be created for some high-ranking officials, but 0athey will still be excluded from government service, the officials said.
Mr. Bremer appeared before the senior staff of the reconstruction 0aadministration with Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who has been in 0acharge of the rebuilding mission under military command. Administration 0aofficials say General Garner will leave his post after a few weeks.
Today, according to people who attended the closed meeting, Mr. 0aBremer praised General Garner's performance with words that were greeted with 0asustained applause.
Nonetheless, questions linger about the Bush administration's 0adecision to replace General Garner and abruptly call home one of his top 0aassistants, Barbara K. Bodine.
General Garner and Ms. Bodine, one of the most experienced Iraq 0aspecialists on his staff, were unable to decide on how to create any new 0aauthority in Baghdad, and clashed as personalities, officials said. "It was not 0aa good fit," one commented today.
Mr. Bremer made no public appearance today, but he is scheduled 0ato meet with Iraqi leaders on Wednesday, some of whom have misgivings about 0awhether he will change the course that General Garner had set toward quickly 0aforming an interim government of Iraqis and turning over substantial power to 0ait.
The wisdom of a speedy turnover was questioned today by some 0aofficials, who noted the acute crisis over crime and security in the 0acapital.
Other countries, meanwhile, declared themselves willing to join 0ain the effort to remake Iraq.
Romanian officials said they would send about 500 soldiers to 0ahelp police Iraq. The foreign minister, Mircea Geoana, told reporters today that 0aRomania would prefer to act under a United Nations resolution.
"The idea is for Romania to send a contingent of a few hundred, 0amost likely under British command," Mr. Geoana said in Bucharest.
Meanwhile in Geneva today, the World Bank president, James 0aWolfensohn, said the bank would send a team to assess reconstruction needs in 0aIraq as soon as security permitted, another sign that the lack of security is 0adelaying the first important steps toward recovery.
In central Iraq today, a prominent Shiite cleric said that 0aredressing the Shiites' long exclusion from political power was necessary.
But the cleric, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, also said there 0awas no single demand for a new political system from Shiites, who are a majority 0ain Iraq.
"They have divergent views and that's what democracy is all 0aabout," Ayatollah Hakim said.
The ayatollah returned to his hometown of Najaf on Monday after 0ayears in exile in Iran as the leader of the opposition Supreme Council for the 0aIslamic Revolution in Iraq. He has already met resistance from one group of 0aclerics, led by Sheik Moktada al-Sadr, who have promoted themselves as the 0arepresentative of long-suppressed Shiites.
Ayatollah Hakim, at a news conference, shrugged off questions 0aabout Sheik Sadr, saying he would not comment on the rivalry. "I don't talk 0aabout these people," he said.
He was also elusive on the subject of the Badr Brigade, his armed 0amilitia that was financed by Iran, saying only that it would switch to providing 0asecurity in Iraq. Asked if the group would be disarmed, as an anti-Iran militia 0ain Iraq will be, Ayatollah Hakim said, "Security means they should carry 0aweapons."
Security in Najaf, as in other Iraqi cities, has become a major 0aworry for residents, who have to ward off looters and other criminals with 0aneighborhood committees in the absence of working police forces.
But Ayatollah Hakim refused to say whether American forces had 0agranted the Badr Brigade the job of policing Najaf, which his now administered 0aby a self-appointed mayor who is a retired Iraqi military officer.
He also said he did not sanction the use of force to resist the 0aAmerican occupation of Iraq, but would resist it politically.
The ayatollah and his movement have, however, been part of the 0aIraqi National Congress, which has been cooperating with the United States for 0aseveral years as an outside opposition to Saddam Hussein.