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Monday, July 26, 2004

How Much Would You Charge Not to Kill Us? 

Dept. of Hey, Why Didn't We Think of This Before the War? From the Washington Post, courtesy of Zemblan patriot K.Z.:
Cash has become the U.S. military's first line of defense in some parts of Iraq, where U.S. soldiers are distributing money to encourage goodwill and to counter their enemies' offers of money to unemployed Iraqis willing to attack Americans, according to officers here.

Even patrol leaders now carry envelopes of cash to spend in their areas. The money comes from brigade commanders, who get as much as $50,000 to $100,000 a month to distribute for local rehabilitation and emergency welfare projects through the Commanders Emergency Response Program.

There are few restrictions on the expenditures, and officers acknowledge they consider the money another weapon. The targets at which it is aimed are the restless legions of unemployed Iraqi men, many of them former soldiers, policemen and low-level members of the Baath Party of the ousted president, Saddam Hussein. They were put out of work when the U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer, ordered a de-Baathification of Iraq. U.S. soldiers say those men are vulnerable to entreaties to carry out an attack on the Americans for pay.

"I have met two guys now who say, 'I don't love you and I don't hate you. But somebody's offered me $200 to set up a mortar or a [roadside bomb], and there's a bonus if we kill you,' " said Lt. Col. Randall Potterf, the civil affairs officer for the Army's 1st Infantry Division . . . .

Lt. Col. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment in Tikrit, said he had paid $500 to a driver to get his car repaired, paid "benevolent" money to the family of a victim of violence, paid people to clean streets, bought soccer uniforms for a local team and repaired a local swimming pool, among other expenditures."I'm trying to give them something to do rather than take shots at someone," said Sinclair, who said he gets $50,000 every three or four weeks to distribute. "It's not bribery. It's priming the pump. And it works well."

For more than a year, the Commanders Emergency Response Program was funded with $105 million taken from Iraqi reconstruction funds. But the Defense Department has agreed to begin paying for the program and has requested $300 million as part of its fiscal 2005 budget request to Congress. The program is popular with some members of Congress, who see it as bypassing the bureaucracy of the slow-moving Iraq reconstruction program.

The projects are "never going to get them to love America," said Potterf, the civil affairs officer. "Nobody is going to ever be waving an American flag. But I just want them to be neutral, to stop planting explosives."

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