Police in Baghdad are packing guns again for the first time since the war, as the capital faced a new type of lawlessness — arson, car theft and kidnapping
Lt. Gen. William "Fuzzy" Webster, deputy commander of all allied ground forces in Iraq, said in an interview Monday that within two weeks an additional 1,000 military police would be operating in Baghdad.
"Then it will quickly decline again," he said, because the 1st Armored Division, which is scheduled to enter Iraq soon as a replacement for the 3rd Infantry Division, has fewer military police than the 3rd.
In other developments:
The new American civilian administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, had been scheduled to hold his first news conference on Tuesday. This was announced prominently to journalists, then canceled via email three hours before it was set to begin.
Bremer will become the boss of the current U.S. administrator, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who has faced severe criticism in Iraq and ridicule in foreign capitals for his slowness in re-establishing public order, preventing looting and restoring utilities and other basic government services throughout the country.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the House of Commons on Monday that moves to restore a civil administration "in the early weeks has not been as good as we would have hoped," but welcomed the appointment of Bremer.
Failure to provide adequate security is proving a volatile spark for anti-Americanism in postwar Iraq.
According to the Washington Post, gunfire was heard in the night, looting resumed at a presidential palace in the capital and fires burned at government buildings. The chaos kept kids from school, prevented bank branches from operating and snarled traffic, the newspaper reported.
The offices of the humanitarian group CARE were attacked over the weekend, The Post said.
More than a month after U.S. forces captured Baghdad, Col. Teddy R. Spain, who as head of U.S. Military Police units here serves as the de facto police chief of Baghdad, said he still doesn't have the necessary resources to restore basic law and order to the capital. The weapons problem "is out of control." But he believes help is on the way.
Some help will come from 4,000 police officers who served under Saddam's fallen regime and have reclaimed their jobs in a force once riddled with corruption and stained by brutality.
Without any checks into their past records, they are being armed and charged with ensuring security for the capital city. Many, if not most, were members of the ruling Baath Party.
On Monday, the first police carrying guns hit the streets of Baghdad.
"Get the thugs off the streets and the weapons off the streets. Those are our over-arching goals," said Spain.
Privately, some U.S. military officers express fears that many of the thugs are ending up in uniform and that the expediency of quickly reforging an Iraqi police force to stop the looting, murder and arson that daily plague Baghdad will one day come back to haunt the Americans.
Outside of the capital, efforts to purge the country of its Baath leadership continue.
In Tikrit, U.S. military commanders meet by day with local tribal chieftains and other citizens to overcome the effects of years of anti-American propaganda. By night, to show that the former regime is no longer to be feared, they orchestrate raids to seize Saddam militants believed to be undermining U.S. authority.
"The common goal is to bring stability to this area," said Capt. James Walker, 32, of Newport News, Va., the brigade's intelligence officer.
Since the raids began, mortar and small arms attacks on U.S. troops have stopped, he said.