Civil war? What civil war?

Zeyad, a secularist, anti-Ba’athist, pro-war, pro-American Sunni Iraqi dentist from Baghdad, is now more afraid of the Shi’a death squads and the Iraqi security forces than he is of the insurgents. That’s bad news.

Zeyad, a secularist, anti-Ba’athist, pro-war, pro-American Sunni Iraqi dentist from Baghdad, has been keeping the Healing Iraq weblog since a few months after the war started.

He has a column in Sunday’s Washington Post, and it’s enough to make your blood run cold:

It’s almost 9 p.m., a dangerous time to go outside. Neighborhood watch teams — young men brandishing AK-47s, pistols, RPGs and even sniper rifles — set up checkpoints around this time. Many were referred to as the “Mujahideen” or insurgents in the past. Now, they are considered defenders of our predominantly Sunni district against Shiite death squads and militias.

If someone like Zeyad is now more afraid of the Shi’a than he is of the insurgents he at one time invariably called “terrorists,” it seems to me that the Iraqi Civil War is a present fact, not a vague future possibility. Of course, Zeyad always had contempt for people such as Sistani and Moqtada al-Sadr, partly because they were Shi’a and partly because they were religious. But until now he’s had nothing good to say about the insurgents.

And it’s not just the private Shi’a militias Zeyad fears. A month ago, Zeyad posted a set of guidelines for ordinary Iraqis in dealing with the security forces, which he says is being circulated widely in Iraq by email. Here’s how it starts:

1- The mere fact that you are arrested by security militias would mean possible death or deadly injury, even if you were innocent. Therefore, your main goal should be to escape arrest by any means possible.

2- The phrase “We have a few questions, and you’ll be back in an hour” usually means your disappearance for months or, God forbid, your death. Therefore, do not be naive to trust security forces.

3- Remember, your presence in detention means 11 dollars a day for prison officers to feed you; a dollar for your food and 10 for the officers. As a result, keeping you in detention is a guaranteed source of profit for security officers, even if you were innocent.

Locking people up for fun & profit. And you and I are paying for it.

This is bad, bad, bad.

Footnote The government clinic where Zeyad works as a dentist has run out of anaesthetics. I’m sure that sort of thing doesn’t matter to Don Rumsfeld, but it matters.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: