- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

BAGHDAD — Somehow in the mob scene of war-weary journalists, U.S. military officials and Iraqis at the Palestine Hotel this week, Lt. Col. Alan King managed to meet with Basim Al Mousawi, the man he says will become the city’s new chief of police. “We got him,” Col. King said with satisfaction after searching the hotel for more than two hours. Military officials say the former Baghdad official, one of many stepping forward to help rebuild the city, was fired for political reasons by Saddam Hussein’s regime before American forces toppled it this month.”We’re going start a thousand-person police force,” Col. King said after meeting with Mr. Mousawi. “We’re going to go to the police academy here, and we’re going to start it up.”Col. King was so excited after the meeting that he hardly seemed to notice the quick pop-pop-pop of rifle fire just blocks away.As he climbed into the passenger seat of his doorless Army jeep, he remarked that three consecutive shots that stop abruptly is likely not serious fire.It’s optimists such as Col. King, an Army reservist with the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion out of Greensboro, N.C., that bring hope to the dizzying series of meetings occurring between military officials and community leaders from across Baghdad. The goal of the meetings, Col. King said, is to establish some sense of transitional order to the anarchy that briefly swept Baghdad when Saddam’s Ba’ath Party government was ousted.While much of the looting and chaos began to subside this week, gunshots still ring out in major sections of town. Military officials say the shots are mainly from Iraqis trying to discourage looters. “Getting this police force up is a major issue,” Col. King said. “We need it to at least keep the buses from driving on the wrong side of the street.” A small number of former Iraqi police already have banded together to patrol some areas of the city with Marines. Talks are under way over uniforms and whether the new Baghdad police force will carry weapons.Local officials who say they were ousted from the Ba’ath Party have been coming forward to help since last week, when commanders with the Army and Marines sent out a plea over Arab radio stations.Col. King said the Iraqis who form the transitional government will likely be paid in U.S. dollars.”Right now, we’re looking for individuals to help us restore the public utilities like electricity, water, sewage, public safety, police and a fire department, and hospitals and schools,” he said.It’s not easy in a city where some 5 million people have gone without electricity for more than a week.Col. King said soldiers with the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, which is attached to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, went 40 hours without sleep trying to find the person in Baghdad with enough knowledge of the city’s electrical system to help an American counterpart get the lights back on.In addition to the difficulty of finding and screening Iraqis, military officials are faced with building the trust of people who fear being killed by Ba’ath Party loyalists for cooperating with Americans.”The key thing here is that [some Iraqis] are showing a real willingness to come forward and try to work with us,” said Lt. Col. Eric Wesley, of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade.Col. Wesley and Col. King met recently with two Iraqi professors who have stepped forward to bring order to the section of the city where they live. The meeting took place inside a small office in one of Saddam’s former palaces, which is occupied by 3rd Infantry troops on the east side of the Tigris River.”This is exactly what we’re looking for — community leaders to get this thing going,” Col. Wesley said. “It’s part of the democratic process.”

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