Iraq Journal: The Final Mission: Part III

Michael J. Totten is an independent journalist reporting on the war in Iraq. Here is a portion of his latest journal entry provided exclusively for

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The United States plans to hand Anbar province over to the Iraqis next month if nothing catastrophic erupts between now and then. The Marines will stick around a while longer, though, and complete their crucial last mission: training the Iraqi police to replace them.

The local police force would collapse in short order without American financial and logistical support. "The biggest problem they have is supply," Cpl. Hayes said to me in Fallujah. "They're always running out of gas and running out of bullets. How are they supposed to police this city with no gas and no bullets?"

What they need more than anything else, though, in the long run, anyway, is an infusion of moderate politics. Fallujah is in the heartland of the Sunni Triangle. The city was ferociously Baathist during the rule of Saddam Hussein. It is surly and reactionary even today. Even by Iraqi standards. Even after vanquishing the insurgency.

Fallujans may never be transformed into Jeffersonian liberal Democrats, but young men from New York, California and Texas are taking the Iraqis by the hand and gently repairing their political culture.

I accompanied Lt. Andrew Macak and Lt. Eric Montgomery to an ethics class they taught to members of the Anbar Provincial Security Forces. PSF members are police officers who operate at the provincial level rather than the city level, much like state police in the U.S.

The class was held at a station in Karmah, a small city wedged between Fallujah and Baghdad. Coursework included the ethical responsibilities of police officers, the importance of human rights and the permissible rules of engagement in counterinsurgency operations.

The material was the same as that taught by Marines everywhere in Al Anbar -- in Fallujah, Ramadi, Hit and Haditha.

"We’re teaching them about the Law of Armed Conflict," Montgomery said. "If they become a police state, people are not going to support them."

Post-Saddam Iraq is not a police state. Even so, while its orders of magnitude are more moderate and humane than the genocidal and fascistic regime it replaced, many individuals in the government and police departments have rough authoritarian habits rooted as much in Arab culture as in legacies from the previous era.

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