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March 14, 2005

Checkpoints And Unintended Consequences

An "unembedded freelance journalist" (non-NYTimes-ese for "white man who actually leaves hotel bar to file stories") weighs in on checkpoints in Iraq. This is a guy who has not only driven through countless checkpoints himself, but lived and worked with both Iraqis and US troops. He has watched as they set up and manned checkpoints and has seen the effect they've had on local kidnappings. His viewpoint is highly instructive:

Last summer, at the height of the kidnappings of foreign journalists here, I used to go to bed every night imagining a cold kiss of steel on the back of my neck: the first touch of the knife I feared would behead me. But not anymore. Great strides have been made in Iraq, and the progress continues every day. For law-abiding Iraqis, for reporters and for the soldiers who risk their lives to disrupt the bombers and hostage-takers, anything that makes life easier and more lucrative for the criminals is very bad news.

As a foreigner here, I feel threatened by the possibility that the Italian government may have rewarded the kidnappers. But Iraq is not about us foreigners. It is about Iraqis. And it is Iraqis who suffer most from kidnappings and from the transportation of the artillery shells and anti-tank mines that become roadside devices and car bombs. Kidnapping Iraqis has become an almost routine business transaction here. Local businessmen fetch sums of up to $250,000, while the child of an ordinary family might go for $5,000 or even $1,000. It happens all the time, all over the country. Iraqi Christians, being more prosperous than most, are especially victimized by this growing crime.

But since the Sgrena shooting, I've already sensed even greater reluctance to set up these dangerous checkpoints. "The soldiers don't like doing this, the NCOs don't like it, even the colonel doesn't like it," a young officer told me the other day. "These checkpoints don't happen as much as they used to."

Last week I talked about the danger of unintended consequences. I suppose it's too much to hope for that the NY Times will read this.

Posted by Cassandra at March 14, 2005 08:15 AM

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It's not brain surgery to setup a non-lethal checkpoint, although it takes a bit of work.

1) Barriers force a serpentine route to the checkpoint itself so a vehicle can't run it full-speed.

2) Tire shredders and/or caltrops are setup so that if they do gun 'n run at the last minute, they don't get far.

3) Non-lethal weapons such as Area Denial sound cannons or other such devices can be used to temporarily disable the driver and passengers if they run the checkpoint.

4) Dogs and robotic devices check the vehicle and clear it of explosives before checkpoint personnel approach it.

Costs a bit, but what is the cost of our troops getting blown to smithereens or the world reputation cost of killing innocent people who merely freaked out at the last minute?

Posted by: Ciggy at March 14, 2005 09:52 AM

1. Now, you know that if dogs are used you'll have PETA breathing down your neck in a hot minute.
2. CALTROPS? Seriously??????

Posted by: MrsPurpleRaider at March 14, 2005 09:32 PM

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