The Corner

One Approach to Looting

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In your Corner discussion of Paul Bremer you offered the opinion that the US troops probably should have shot looters after they took Baghdad. I was reminded of a story that my son told about dealing with looters in a Baghdad neighborhood shortly after the US took the city.

My son was a Bradley driver and his squad was given a neighborhood to patrol. They caught a number of looters, some of them several times.

He remembers one young man in particular who they caught carrying a TV down the street. The first time they caught him he was very distraught — obviously sure he was about to be killed. The US soldiers had been told to prevent looting but had been given very little instructions about what to do if it occurred. There was still fighting in other parts of the city and there were no resources available for dealing with kids caught lifting TV sets. So, they yelled at him (in English which he didn’t understand), took away the television and let him go.

They caught the same kid several more times that day, each time he seemed less worried about being apprehended. Finally, they decided that a new approach was needed. There was a general discussion of what to do with him and they finally hit on an idea that still seems the most sensible, humane way to deal with the problem. They took him out behind the Bradley, beat the snot out of him, and let him go again. I believe this is the last they saw of him.

So I’m all for shooting looters. It’s the only way to maintain order while civil authority is, shall we say, in flux. But, next time we take a city it would be good planning to have some rubber bullets on hand.

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