The Straight Word...Straight from an Iraqi Citizen (PART 2)
This is a continuation of the interview of one of my interpreters, "Steve." Another interpreter, "Jim," joined in also.
I then asked, "How is the current government structure accepted by the country on the whole, and if you could choose a group, who was the most dissatisfied. Is the country on the whole happy with the balance of power?"
Steve answered again about the Sunni population: "The Sunni are most dissatisfied." He reiterated to me that the Sunni were primarily Ba'athist, the party of Saddam, so they continue to fight. "The Sryians are also Ba'ath, so there is a lot of influence from them. Other than the Sunni, everyone is pretty happy."
Jim chimed in at this point, talking about the TV show here in Iraq, the one where they question captured insurgents. "They mostly all say that Syrian intelligence hired them or sent them here to fight the Americans."
Jim also added, "The insurgency is not really a Muslim fight. I do not see in the Koran where we are told to fight and bring terror on our people. I am Muslim, and I do not believe what the extremists believe."
My next question was this: "What is your impression of the ISF ability to conduct their own security missions in Iraq?"
Jim spoke first. "They cannot do it. Not yet. One of the biggest problems is family loyalty. If a cousin of an IP is in a house that gets raided, for instance, that IP will try and protect his cousin and proclaim his innocence based purely on family ties. Whether he is guilty or not, he will try and protect him. They are scared for retribution within their families and friends."
Steve mentioned a problem with nepotism (favoritism based on kinship). "The Police chief may hire his nephews and brothers to be in positions of responsibility, even though there are more qualified individuals who are not related. Until this stops, and we have the best people to do the job, rather than a guy's nephew, it will be hard for them to secure Iraq for themselves. If we hire and train the police and army, then assign them somewhere else in the country, outside of their hometowns, it will be better. No more, how do you say, interest conflict."
(You can read my previous post about my personal observations of the ISF here.)
My next question was this: "What opportunities have been opened to the Iraqi people since we liberated the country?"
"The biggest opportunity that has been afforded our people is education," said Steve. "The school system has improved so much. American soldiers help re-build schools, renovate buildings, and ensure the city is safe to go to school in. American aid organizations have donated so much, from basic school supplies, such as pens and pencils, book-bags, paper, and stuff like that."
Jim added, "I agree. It (the education system) is very good right now. The children are the future of Iraq, and you have given the opportunity to learn, to grow, to succeed. Teacher salaries have been raised, facilities have improved very much. Most of the schools have been renovated, and girls are getting an education now. This is good!"
Here ends PART 2. In the coming days, I will conclude this short series with my personal observations, and this question to the terps: "What would you like to impress most on anyone who is an outside observer?"