"Once They Stand Up. . ." (Part Four)
This is what we sacrified thousands of our soldiers for:
HABBANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Newly graduated Iraqi soldiers protested after a passing out parade on Sunday saying they were promised they would serve only in their hometowns.
The troops were among 1,000 graduates, mostly from the Sunni Arab minority, at the Habbaniya base near Falluja west of Baghdad.
The protesters told reporters they were unhappy about their first assignments after being promised they would serve only in their hometowns.
Some took off their shirts and threw them down in anger. Others yelled at their officers and threatened to quit. One officer yelled back, telling them to leave, witnesses said.
Well, if they don't like the military, they can always get cushier jobs with the militias:
Militias steal new recruits with better pay and perks By Daniel McGrory
SOON after he graduated near the top of his class at the American-run police academy, Alah defected. He did not bother to inform his superiors. The young Iraqi police officer simply walked into a recruitment office in a rundown neighbourhood of Baghdad and signed on for the Mahdi Army, the private militia run by the radical young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that has been blamed for some of the most savage atrocities in this city in recent weeks.
The 23-year-old absconder described it as â€śa career moveâ€?. The pay was better, the duties less onerous and there was far less chance of being killed.
Three years after President Bush declared â€śmission accomplishedâ€? in Iraq, young gunslingers such as Alah are what passes for the law across much of this city today.
Nobody knows for sure the strength of Iraqâ€™s militias, but they certainly outnumber the 120,000-strong police force that estimates it is losing several hundred recruits a month. This is the only country where police and soldiers have it written into their contracts that they can leave on a whim without being punished.
Alahâ€™s defection is a blow to attempts to rebuild Iraq. Western money and manpower trained him to replace the British and US forces. But, with young recruits deserting in ever growing numbers, the prospect of a swift pullout recedes still further.
. . .Alah was brought up in a Shia neighbourhood but laughs at the idea that it was religious conviction that encouraged him to join the ranks of the Mahdi Army. â€śIt is an attractive package,â€? he says, weighing up the economic advantages offered by the militia, such as a pledge to take care of Alahâ€™s family if anything happens to him. He and his colleagues do as they please. They do not bother with warrants before searching premises, and can open fire at will.