*I put some great photos up today at www.flickr.com/photos/rangerholton
Commander Shoe Shine Boy
PB Murray, south of Baghdad
What we’re seeing here in the southern suburbs of Baghdad is that U.S. troops have killed or captured all of the High Value Targets they initially identified, then wiped out the next list they were given, and the next, and so on. Now, the top guy they are looking for (and have just found) was initially the driver of one of the former bad guys.
The Sunnis and Shia alike are so tired of the brutality that they can’t turn in these miscreants fast enough. I spoke to an interpreter today who is Shia, and he said “I used to be friends with Sunni, Christian, it didn’t matter. Then someone decided that the Sunnis were bad. I don’t know why.” He shrugged, “Suddenly we were told to hate them. But we don’t want to do that anymore.” One article I saw today described the gangs of youth who have “taken over” some Baghdad neighborhoods. The article makes these gangs sound like highly disciplined soldiers – but they’re really no more than street thugs. And their brutality is becoming their undoing as it alienates BOTH Sunnis and Shia.
The area of south Baghdad near Forward Operating Base Falcon, where I spent the night two days ago, is blanketed with new Iraqi police and military forces. And they are cracking down big time – taking care of these “problem children” as fast as they can, acting on tips from the local citizens. In most cases the US isn’t even involved anymore. The Iraqis are handling it themselves.
So while it’s still a dangerous place, and will be for some time to come, it’s now becoming more of an internal law enforcement issue rather than a military issue. It’s still very bad, but in more than half the districts of Baghdad, the Iraqis are policing themselves now. Remember that when you watch the news.