Arming the citizenry? What a novel concept!
The Iraqi government has hit upon a novel idea to improve security in the country. Arming the citizenry.
The call for civilians to take up arms in their own defense was echoed Sunday by the country’s Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.
“People have a right to expect from the government and security agencies protection for their lives, land, honor and property,” al-Hashemi said in a statement. “But in the case of (their) inability, the people have no choice but to take up their own defense.”
Now many Americans might be confused by this statement. After all, isn’t Iraq awash with weapons? Aren’t the armed people the cause of the instability? What is this all about?
This actually represents a massive change in a policy toward personal protection, a policy imposed by the U.S. army in 2003 that, I think, played a significant role in the U.S. defeat in Iraq.
The policy imposed by the U.S. government was simply this. Every household could own an AK-47 or similar rifle for self-defense. If a civilian carries the weapon in public, U. S. forces can kill him without warning. The only Iraqis allowed to go out armed are government officials, army officers, or police. Local militias are banned.
In effect, this is a slightly less restrictive law than the DC gun control law, and it has the same effect: it leaves the common man and woman at the mercy of criminals. When locals understandably form militias to defend their neighborhoods, they become targets for U.S. government attack. Their attackers, who tend to be members of militias dedicated to some sectarian cause can operate with near impunity; they have safe zones where they can refit unmolested by U.S. soldiers or the Iraqi government, in some cases they even are part of the Iraqi government.
The U.S. government policy throughout the post war period has been to promote a strong centralized state at the expense of the common man. This has manifested itself in such bizarre actions as pursuing illegal suppliers of electricity (who use generators to supply power to neighborhoods), gasoline black-marketers (the U.S. price controls on gasoline have caused massive shortages). In doing so, they have worked decisively to lose whatever support the Iraqi population might have had for the U.S. occupation. It is no wonder that 90% of the Iraqi populace wants the U.S. government out of Iraq. They are fed up with an organization that sends armed men blundering through their homes, depriving them of access to electricity, undermining their security and killing them by mistake.
With the U.S. out of the way, they know that the current Iraqi government would collapse quickly. And the residents would no longer have to fear two entities that actively work against their security.
Encouraging the citizenry to arm themselves, permitting them to publicly bear arms without fear of being killed is an absolutely necessary step to rebuilding a peaceful society in Iraq. It’s a pity that it has taken 4 years for the U.S. government to permit this.