Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Perspective: Harsh justice

Above: An An Iraqi policeman walks as Marines with the 3rd Marine Regiment follow in Humvees during a joint patrol in Anbar province in May.

Seated between his police chief and a U.S. Marine battalion commander, the Iraqi mayor opened his weekly security meeting by explaining how he had authorized one of the local tribes to carry out a summary execution.

The police had caught two men who had killed another policeman.

"As you all know, the Iraqi court system is still weak," said Mayor Farhan Ftehkhan, while an interpreter translated for the benefit of the Americans.

"Yesterday I met the sheikhs, and they decided to kill them as soon as possible. So the tribes took their decision and they killed those criminals."

The sheikhs carried out their summary execution in the district of al Qaim in Iraq's vast western desert province of Anbar, where Sunni Arab tribes once hostile to U.S. forces have now joined the Americans to drive out al Qaeda militants.

The area, once one of the most dangerous in Iraq, is now one of the quietest. Rows of houses reduced to rubble by heavy fighting are being rebuilt.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is expected to cite the changes in Anbar when he testifies to Congress on September 10 about the impact of U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to send more troops to Baghdad and Anbar...

But the summary execution is a sign of the compromises that U.S. forces still have to make.

"We are working hard to get the rule of law stood up here," said the Marine battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Jason Bohm, speaking after the security meeting at a border outpost overlooking the Euphrates river as it pours in from Syria.

"We still have a way to go."

Read the rest at Reuters