Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Good News Is The Bad News

The latest from Fallujah is that an agreement has been reached which would turn responsibility for the city's safety over to a group of former Iraqi soldiers called the Fallujah Protection Army; thereby allowing the Marines to begin pulling out by tomorrow morning.

Apparently the deal, which the Pentagon claims is not final, was authorized by Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway without the knowledge of his superiors in Iraq or the US. From the Washington Post:

It is not clear whether Conway conveyed the terms of the deal to his superiors in Baghdad and at the Pentagon, or even to leaders of the U.S. occupation authority. One person familiar with the deal said it took senior U.S. military and civilian officials in Baghdad by surprise. Because of the apparent lack of consultation, some officials said elements of the agreement, particularly the speedy troop withdrawal, may be tempered by the Pentagon or by the U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of military operations in Iraq.

"It's very confusing right now," a senior Pentagon official said. "There's a disconnect here, and we can't figure it out."

That those in charge on the ground in Iraq feel the need to freelance deals in order to ensure the safety of US forces, should be disconcerting at the very least to anyone in the Pentagon or White House.

And then there's this:

We are doing this because we love our country and we want these thugs out of our country," said Mohammed Faur, a former colonel in the Iraqi Intelligence Service who is serving as a liaison between the militia and the Marines.

Faur said most of the members of the new force would be from Fallujah. "It's about time for them to take responsibility," he said. "It's an Iraqi problem. They Iraqis are getting angrier. People are upset that Syrians and foreigners are causing trouble here."

Faur refused to name the militia's commanders or provide further details about its members.

Some American officials familiar with efforts to pacify Fallujah said they were concerned about the background of the participants and questioned whether they would be screened for past human-rights abuses and other crimes. Marine officers said they did not know the details of how the force would be assembled. One American with knowledge of the plan said procedures for vetting participants had not been detailed by Conway.

In other words, we're turning the city over to potential death squads.