Riverbend’s new entry, The Raid, describes the environment in her neighborhood in Iraq. The story begins here:
We were collected at my aunts house for my cousins birthday party a few days ago. J. just turned 16 and my aunt invited us for a late lunch and some cake. It was a very small gathering- three cousins- including myself- my parents, and J.’s best friend, who also happened to be a neighbor.
The fear begins here:
“Hey- there’s no coverage here… is it just my phone?” She asked. J. and I both took out our phones and checked, “Mine isn’t working either…” J. answered, shaking her head. They both turned to me and I told them that I couldn’t get a signal either. J. suddenly looked alert and made a sort of “Uh-oh” sound as she remembered something. “R.- will you check the telephone next to you?” I picked up the ordinary telephone next to me and held my breath, waiting for a dial tone. Nothing.
“There’s no dial tone… but there was one earlier today- I was online…”
Taking things into their own hands, a “mixed” neighborhood got tired of waiting for the police, so set up their own security force. It worked perfectly for awhile. But no good deed goes unpunished:
The checkpoints began almost three weeks ago and greatly reduced the number and frequency of attacks, said neighborhood leaders and guards.
But the fragile effort could fall apart in the wake of a raid on the neighborhood late last month that increased sectarian tensions.
More on the general state of the street, and overstating the obvious, is the article in USNews.com:
U.S. officials have become increasingly concerned about the level of police abuses, particularly by counterinsurgency commando units assembled quickly and, as a result, populated with Shiite militia members. President Bush last month acknowledged as much when he announced a new effort to give “human rights and ethics” training to Iraqi police, noting that some have used their positions “to take it out on others because of past grievances.”
Across Iraq, the U.S. military has been working to step up the training and create new teams of military police to partner with Iraqi police officials. The problem is that while there are thousands of police officers who need training, the American MPs are one of the most overstretched categories of soldiers, and there are far too few to go around.
For now, it’s a murderous free-for-all. “It’s basically gang warfare,” says the U.N.’s Pace. “The real cause is a breakdown of law and order in the absence of any effective police force that can do the job of protecting people.”
It’s a wonderful day in the neigh-bor-hood, a wonderful for a mask or hood . . . .