Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Eight bucks an hour to babysit a civil war

Front Paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

Even regular babysitters make more than that. But that is a (generous) estimate of what the average private serving in Iraq makes per hour. I say generous estimate because that article from last year pegs the average annual salary at $25,000 for an Army private, and I added another $10,000 to that just in case (based on the increased bonuses to re-enlist). Even that is way more than the $7.50 per DAY that was reported back in 2005, but that sounded ridiculously low.

We can also use the monthly numbers for “basic pay” or the annual numbers for “regular military compensation” as a reference, but the numbers will come out to be pretty much the same. And while a nice cushy salary is generally not why people enlist in the military, it is worth pointing out that our current troops, many of whom are younger than 22 years old put in close to 12 hour days/7 day weeks (hence the eight dollar per hour wage).

So, for that whopping sum of eight dollars per hour, what are our troops doing? Well, judging by recent events, see if you can find the common thread (hat tip to Juan Cole for the links).

Major Ibrahim A.Al-Nabi an officer of interior ministry was assassinated by gunmen on the high motor way near the ministry as he was going to his work. According to Cole:

So the Ministry of the Interior in Iraq is the body concerned with internal security, and its special police commandoes are drawn from the Badr Corps, the Shiite militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The police commandoes have been known to track down and kill Sunni guerrillas.

Sounds like a potential revenge killing of a Shiite government official for tacit approval of killing of Sunnis.

The following all within the past day (per Reuters):

  • At least 16 people were killed and 70 wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded at a crowded market in the Shi'ite city of Kufa;

  • The bodies of three personal guards of Iraq's minister of Higher Education were found shot dead in Baghdad;

  • Police said they recovered 30 bodies in Baghdad, including 17 in the religiously mixed southern neighbourhood of Amil in the past 24 hours;

  • A suicide bomber killed two policemen and wounded 23, including 10 civilians, when he targeted a police station in the town of Khanaqin, north of Baghdad.

Regarding the suicide bomb in Kufa, this is a Shiite city right near Najaf (major Shiite stronghold) and was suspected to have been carried out by Sunni “insurgents”.

A truck bomb in Arbil in the Kurdish region killed 12 and injured 40 – went off near the Kurdish government’s interior ministry. Per Cole:

This strike was likely the work of Sunni Arab guerrillas along with maybe some Kurdish Salafi Jihadis. They were probably replying to the deployment of several thousand Kurdish Peshmerga troops in Baghdad as part of the surge. The Peshmerga have been fighting Sunni Arab guerrillas on behalf of the Americans and the Shiite government of Nuri al-Maliki. The bombing may also be related to competition for the oil city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds intend to claim for their provincial confederacy.

A fight over oil. Or maybe a fight over the Kurds going their own separate way. Or maybe because the Kurds were part of Bush’s escalation plan. But this was not targeting US troops, that is for sure.

Of course there was this bit of news from January right before the “crackdown”:

An explosion outside a Baghdad university as students were heading home for the day killed at least 65 people on Tuesday, in the deadliest of several attacks on predominantly Shiite areas. The attacks — and the announcement of four U.S. military deaths — came on a day the United Nations said more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died last year in sectarian violence.

On Tuesday alone, at least 109 people were killed or found dead across Iraq — the bloodiest day for such attacks in weeks.

There was also the WaPo article from last December indicating that the US was undercounting the incidents of violence to suit the Administration’s goals and needs. Let’s not forget the 68 people found dead on Monday including 30 bullet riddled bodies from “apparent death squad” killings. Or the 17 bodies in the Amil neighborhood where Sunni politicians have complained of renewed attacks by Shiite militiamen, prompting the Sunni vice president to threaten to leave the Shiite-dominated government.

And let’s also not forget the burgeoning fight between the Sunni al Qaeda and the “other” Sunnis:

Suicide bombers killed 13 people in a pair of attacks Monday around the Sunni Arab city of Ramadi in what local officials said was part of a power struggle between al-Qaida and tribes that have broken with the terror network.

Maybe Bush and the administration was right – there is is a war in Iraq. Unfortunately, it is a civil war – one which our troops have no business being caught in the middle of. What can our troops do here? Who are they helping? The Sunni insurgents? Or al Qaeda? Or the Shiite militia and who may still be associated with al Sadr? What about the death squads who have infiltrated the Iraqi police force? All of these factions are killing each other. And all of them want to kill our troops as well. Maybe they should be protecting the Iraqi citizens? Good question – but isn’t that what an occupying force would be doing, not a military in the midst of a war?

This is NOT a job for US troops. This is not what the military is supposed to be used for. They are not babysitters. Especially if they are getting paid less than I was back in the 1980s. And I only had to deal with flying toys, not RPGs.

It’s time to talk about how we are going to leave.

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