Friday, June 27, 2003

The First Shoe Drops ...

The Belmont Club held that the death of the six British military policemen in Majar Al-Kabir in Iraq resulted from  an overly defensive British posture, and that treachery played a significant part in the incident. All of the initial media stories, especially those from the BBC, initially put the incident down to Iraqi hatred towards Westerners. Now the Washington Post is confirming the Belmont Club. Here's the take on British defensive tactics.

The reliance on militiamen to maintain public order -- a tactic used by British forces in other parts of Iraq because of what some military officials contend is a shortage of troops -- has led to unease among many Iraqis. The irregular security forces are not only poorly trained and equipped, they say, but place the interests of their tribal, religious and political leaders above the law.

The British reliance on local militia, the so-called "hearts and minds" campaign praised by the media in contrast with the American hunt of the Ba'ath, was fatal.

when an angry mob surrounded the police station here and began shooting at a group of British military police inside the building, the militiamen vanished. With only a few Iraqi police trainees fighting in behalf of the outnumbered British, the throng waited until the soldiers had exhausted their ammunition before barging in and killing at least four of them at close range.

And the attack was planned. Here's the treachery part.

... Mahoud (a locally famous guerrilla fighter) said he believed the killings were motivated by more than just anger over weapons searches and an attempt by British paratroops to patrol the local market. He said he believed provocateurs -- either agents from Iran or members of the Baath Party -- were responsible for instigating the crowd.

The death of the British soldiers served everyone's book. The smugglers could keep their heavy weapons. The Iranian Shi'ites could kill their Brits. The Ba'ath could escape. All that was needed were a few bucks in the palms of the militia. Here's the Belmont Club's revised scenario, identical in essence to the original. After the attack on the Parachute Regiment patrol, the British military policemen were assured by the militia that it was safe to continue their mission. An irate crowd "happened" to appear in the course of training. The militia asked the Brits to help control the crowd. The MPs left their Land Rover and radio. As the Brits attempted to guide their "trainees" in the nonviolent procedure, the trainees vanished.. The Brits fell back on the police station, sans radio, only to find themselves alone. The rest is history.

All the earlier media stories about a mob of devout Muslims incensed by the use of dogs, or rumors of a weapons search among women, were, as I suspected, a crock. As Sherlock Holmes used to say, "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."