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The Unwomanly Face of War

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Arming the Enemy

Posted on Aug 21, 2007

By Marie Cocco

WASHINGTON—Of all that has been lost in Iraq, the case of the missing weapons does not figure much in the grim tally. At this point, what’s a few tens of thousands of unaccounted-for AK-47s?

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    Besides, Washington is gearing up for the sort of fight it cannot avoid but which does not fail to turn the stomachs of those who watch from a distance: A contretemps over whether the much-ballyhooed September status report on the Bush administration’s military “surge” is to be written by the White House or, as first promised, by Gen. David H. Petraeus—and whether or not the commander will give his congressional testimony in public or behind conveniently closed doors.

    A midsummer report by the Government Accountability Office that the Pentagon “cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets” issued to Iraqi forces as of September 2005 did not stir the city’s stifling air. We know that just about everything we’ve done in Iraq has been sabotaged by incompetence. Not that the GAO specifically accused the Pentagon of this—just an incomprehensibly slipshod system in which the military failed to account for armaments given out to security forces long known to have dubious loyalty to the central Iraqi government and plagued with a record of desertion.

    “Remember, the critical path for measuring progress was how quickly we could stand up these Iraqi battalions,” says Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., sponsor of legislation to require the Pentagon to institute better tracking for the small arms it is handing out. “In many cases, once they [Iraqi recruits] got a paycheck, they basically left. They went to their hometowns with their weapons and their equipment and never were heard from again.”

    Lynch, who has visited Iraq seven times and has inspected a training facility for Iraqi security forces in Amman, Jordan, says that when he tried to get an accounting of 370,000 small arms that the U.S. had provided to Iraqis, he found only 3 percent were registered with a particular owner. “About 97 percent of the 370,000 weapons that we tracked were untraceable to any specific owner,” he says.

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    The GAO report and congressional investigations may understate the problem, Lynch says. Iraq is awash in weapons.

    The Coalition Provisional Authority, the American regency that ran Iraq immediately after the 2003 invasion, allowed each Iraqi household to possess one automatic weapon. On a trip when he accompanied U.S. soldiers participating in house searches, Lynch says, the search typically began with the American asking, “Where’s the weapon, the weapon you’re supposed to have?” The standard household gun is an AK-47, for which ammunition is readily available, Lynch says, “much like we would buy a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk.”

    Then there are the weapons caches from the huge stockpiles amassed during Saddam Hussein’s regime, unguarded and looted as the American military struggled with too few forces and too scant a plan for how to bring order to post-invasion Iraq. “Personally, I’m most concerned about the 4,000 to 6,000 shoulder-fired missiles that we know were in the Iraqi stockpiles,” says Matthew Schroeder, who tracks the international arms trade for the Federation of American Scientists.

    Four planeloads of weapons, transferred by the Pentagon from unused stocks in Bosnia-Herzegovina for use in Iraq, may never have made it to Baghdad, according to a May 2006 investigation by Amnesty International. There are no documents showing the planes ever landed in Baghdad. U.S. military officials in Iraq told the group that there are no records to show the arms reached them, according to Colby Goodman, an arms transfer expert at Amnesty International-USA.

    The Pentagon says it is now instituting better tracking procedures. But this is like saying we now realize we had too few forces in Iraq from the outset, or that we finally understand how the forces of sectarianism tear the country.

    Tens of thousands of weapons that are unaccounted for and presumably missing could well be in Iraq, but in whose hands? They could have seeped beyond Iraq’s borders, and turn up one day in some faraway conflict where the international arms bazaar helps to fuel regional strife. “But how are we going to get the horse back into the barn?” Lynch asks.

    We cannot, he believes. The track record on recovering missing weapons isn’t good. So add this tragedy to all the others that are the legacy of our involvement in Iraq.

    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)washpost.com.

    © 2007, Washington Post Writers Group

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By John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming, September 3, 2007 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment
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Trivialization and nitpicking is a good tactic.

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By FFURKS, September 3, 2007 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment
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96338 by ~B~

“Viet Cong had M-16s before our side did”

If this were true, we would have won the war!  The Mattel Mouse Guns were totally unreliable, and many a GI died while attempting to unjam them.

Maybe we learned from our mistakes, and decided to arm the enemy this time.

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By John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming, August 22, 2007 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment
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As soldiers we took an oath that involved defending the constitution against enemies internal.  The worst weapon of all is money - I think for obvious reasons.  Every dime that we give to useless rich crooks is used as a lever to steal even more wealth and power.  Money bought 911 and it bought every other instance of treason and subversion by the corporate state.

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By ~B~, August 22, 2007 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

One of the first things we did in Vietnam was to arm the insurgents. In many cases the Viet Cong had M-16s before our side did [at the time this was mostly South Vietnam Army].

In some ways this is a reality of war. Troops scavange when needed. Another reality is policing the battlefield, in other words, soldiers clean up battlefields after the fighting to deny materials to the enemy or gain materials to use against the enemy.

However, when looked at by policy it becomes a different beast entirely. Sometimes this appears to be incompetence among the policy makers. Other times it looks outright like arming the enemy. In this case something is very amiss. Protocols were not followed. One thought on this is perhaps those weapons ended up in “black ops” or in a “false flag op” another could be they were being removed from officialdom to be given to a group we should not be arming (say maybe a group of terrorists in Iraq who love to attack Iran).

Like so much this is just another instance of the shady antics Washington DC is so well known for.

B

http://b-political.blogspot.com/

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By 1DREES, August 22, 2007 at 1:28 am Link to this comment
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WHAT PEOPLE NEED TO REALISE IS THAT EVERYTIME SOMEBODY DOES SOMETHING MORALLY WRONG ( AS IN THIS CASE START A WAR ON INNOCENT PEOPLE, ONLY TO APPEASE THE ZIONISTIC CORPORATIONS ) YOU IMMEDIATELY MAKE A COUPLE OF ENEMIES, ATLEAST WITH THE PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO LIVE & LET LIVE AND LIVE FAIRLY. SO BY DECLARING A WAR ON IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN AND WHAT NOT, BASICALY JUST TO LOOT AND PLUNDER OTHER PEOPLE, THE COUNTRY CALLED USA KIND OF VOLUNTEERED FOR THE JOB OF THE LOCAL SCUMBAG AND SINCE THERE WAS NO COMPETITION, THE JOB IS GRANTED TO USA. WEAPONS OR NO WEAPONS LOST,ACTUALLY ITS THE NATURE OF THE THINGS THAT KINDOF DECIDE WHATIS GOOD& EVIL AND MOST OF THE PLANET IS CONVINCED THAT THE CORE OF EVIL IS USA ITSELF.

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By farmertx, August 21, 2007 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

Maybe the fact that serial number’s of weapons given to the Iraqis’ were not recorded has something to do with this.
Serial number’s are a mania with the military. Except in this one instance.
Just one more brick in the wall of mistakes that our clueless leader and his sycophant’s have made.

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