Looters will be shot on sight. That's the new policy of the U.S. forces policing Iraq, the New York Times reports.After a month of near-anarchy, the time has come for the iron fist, Iraq's new American administrator, L. Paul Bremer, had decided."'(U.S. troops) are going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around' that assaults on property, the hijacking of automobiles and violent crimes will be dealt with using deadly force," an American official told the Times.Did it have to come this?Hell no, says former military policeman Phillip Carter.
It's a band-aid measure to cover up the fact that we simply don't have enough soldiers in Iraq to do the job. A strong show of force -- soldiers on dismounted patrol; mounted patrols by armed HMMWVs and Bradley fighting vehicles, quick response to any breach of the peace -- could impose law and order on the chaotic streets of Iraq. But such a show of force takes a lot of manpower -- more manpower than the U.S. has in theater. It would have been wise to mobilize 3-5 National Guard divisions 6 months ago, when we committed to the Iraq mission, so they could be ready to perform this kind of mission today. America's military is stretched thin, but despite the callup of 150,000 reservists, we did not reach very deeply into the ranks of the National Guard, who have a proven track record in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. It's not too late to pursue this course of action, or to enlist the help of our NATO allies in this mission. But we must do it quickly, or else our soldiers will be forced to compensate for their lack of manpower with overwhelming and excessive force -- as evidenced by this new policy.