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Oh, ye cynics who decry George W’s debacle in Iraq, let the news go forth that there has been a tremendous breakthrough for civil order in that war torn society. Yes, the gruesome bombings and kidnappings continue, mass corruption proceeds unimpeded, the fractious sectarian divides are unhealed, and the dysfunctional Iraqi government remains dependent on American largesse for the foreseeable future – but now there is progress in one important area: police authorities all across the country are cracking down on people who violate the seat belt laws.
Yes, buckle-up in Baghdad, or be ticketed. As one district traffic commander for the capital city explains: “It is part of the healing process of this country and of Baghdad to enforce the laws, law by law.” Well, maybe. But after five years, 4,000 U.S. deaths, and trillions of American dollars committed to this disastrous occupation – our measure of progress is that brigades of traffic officers are being dispatched to look out for seat belt violators?
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If traffic is to be the government’s priority, perhaps it would be better to focus on the fact that commuters are continually interrupted by car bombings, that traffic usually crawls so slowly that seat belts are hardly needed, that roads are often blocked, and that people are so spooked by the threat of violence that it’s not uncommon to see drivers zooming the wrong way down a street.
Also, if authorities really want to teach the people proper driving behavior, they might focus first on the outlaw antics of such privatized security outfits as Blackwater. To clear a path for themselves, employees of these corporate mercenaries sometimes throw water bottles at pedestrians or fire their guns into the air.
If seat belt enforcement is the best they can do in terms of making “progress.” it’s time for our soldiers to hit the road home.
“Striving for Normality, Iraq Cracks Down on Seat Belt Scofflaws,” The New York Times, April 17, 2008