by Patrick E. Tyler | New York Times | May 15, 2003
United States military forces in Iraq will have the authority to shoot looters on sight under a tough new security setup that will include hiring more police officers and banning ranking members of the Baath Party from public service, American officials said today.
The far more muscular approach to bringing order to postwar Iraq was described by the new American administrator, Lieutenant Paul Bremer, at a meeting of senior staff members today, the officials said. On Wednesday, Bremer is expected to meet with the leaders of Iraqi political groups that are seeking to form an interim government by the end of the month. "He made it very clear that he is now in charge," said an official who attended the meeting today. "I think you are going to see a change in the rules of engagement within a few days to get the situation under control."
Asked what this meant, the official replied, "They are going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around" that assaults on property, the hijacking of automobiles and violent crimes will be dealt with using deadly force.
How Iraqis will be informed of the new rules is not clear. American officials in Iraq have access to United States-financed radio stations, which could broadcast the changes.
A tougher approach over all appears to be at the core of Bremer's mandate from President Bush to save the victory in Iraq from a descent into anarchy, a possibility feared by some Iraqi political leaders if steps are not taken quickly to check violence and lawlessness.
But imposing measures that call for the possible killing of young, unemployed or desperate Iraqis for looting appears to carry a certain level of risk because of the volatile sentiments in the streets here. Gas lines snake through neighborhoods, garbage piles up, and the increasing heat frequently provides combustion for short tempers, which are not uncommonly directed at the American presence here.