October 2, 2005


Preparing for the day (Maya Alleruzzo, October 2, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

U.S. forces view Iraq's constitutional referendum in less than two weeks as a dress rehearsal for the day when America's presence fades and Iraqis take charge of protecting their fragile democracy.

To help prepare for that day, Staff Sgt. Hilario Dominguez teaches a platoon of young Iraqi soldiers how to control an angry crowd without casualties.

"The best thing to do is just detain them," Sgt. Dominguez of Okeechobee, Fla., explains as his American platoon demonstrates what is known as a "graduated response."

The goal: to bring an excited crowd under control with no one getting hurt.

"Show the crowd your weapons. If they don't disperse, shout. Tell them to stop, go away, whatever. Physically push them away, if necessary. Use the least amount of force," Sgt. Dominguez explains as long shadows from the eucalyptus trees of forward operating base Normandy slowly disappear with the setting sun.

"If that doesn't work, arrest the instigator. We don't want everyone to be so scared that they don't want to vote. If you're shooting up in the air or beating people up for no reason, they're going to be scared to vote," Sgt. Dominguez says.

An interpreter repeats his words in Arabic, and the Iraqi soldiers begin to talk among themselves until one speaks up.

"There are no demonstrations in Iraq like this. They'd just use a bomb," one says. [...]

Bombings were not part of today's lesson plan. But Sgt. Dominguez, 27, seizes the moment to drive home the importance of his instructions.

"If a bomb goes off, there's going to be a big crowd of people trying to get in," he says. "You're going to have to keep order. If you start shooting, then no one will come out and vote."

For emphasis, Sgt. Dominguez adds that he has a personal stake in the success of Iraq's transition: If no one votes, he says, "then I can't go home."

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 2, 2005 8:17 AM

The only thing that would bring a reasonable person to a polling place under threat of bomb attack is an assurance that he could vote for a regime that would lead to the extirmination of those threatening the attack.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 2, 2005 9:41 AM

"Use the least amount of force." Time to practice helo take-offs from the embassy roof.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 2, 2005 10:50 AM

"If no one votes I can't go home."

Makes me proud of our troops serving over there.

Posted by: Genecis at October 2, 2005 12:03 PM