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My question is… why were these communities not armed to the teeth?

Thousands of Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority’s biggest town in Iraq. The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh in Nineveh province overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces. An international Christian organisation said at least a quarter of Iraq’s Christians were leaving Qaraqosh and other surrounding towns.

So my question is why were rifles and RPGs and a few truckloads of ammunition not deposited in these communities weeks ago? The Yazidi and Christian communities should have been armed to the teeth by now. If 100,000 people from the region have been displaced, at least 10,000 of them should be viable militia, no? Why leave such things to various state armies?

21 comments to My question is… why were these communities not armed to the teeth?

  • Infantilising philosophical norms?

  • It would be contrary to the concept of the Primacy of the State. Thus it would be senseless to those presently in command.

  • TomO

    For shame….

    Where’s the BBC & Guardian when you need ’em eh?

  • The Kurds themselves point to the reason. Instead being able to declare their independence out of general principle, they have figured out they need to turn themselves into the sort of regime multinationals and governments are comfortable with, and that means being corporatists.

  • Mr Ecks

    The more important question is why aren’t we?.

  • Gene

    Few if any Western governments would arm their own citizens even if under invasion by powerful space aliens with clearly genocidal intent. So to ask why Iraq’s government wouldn’t arm these people is a fool’s errand.

    It’s interesting that all the chatter over this by Western governments, NGOs and the UN centers around the usual pleas for humanitarian assistance. Few of those same chatterers will spend any time talking or even thinking about the other great need of these refugees — some pitiless organized violence on their behalf. Because you know, we just don’t do those sorts of things anymore. Now if these refugees will just do the decent thing and die quietly and quickly, I’m sure we’ll all appreciate it.

  • It is explained here:


    Basically as some one said up thread – a threat to the State.

  • RogerC

    Leslie Bates wrote:

    It would be contrary to the concept of the Primacy of the State. Thus it would be senseless to those presently in command.

    This, which I nominate for SQOTD and which can be applied to a multitude of other points, too.

  • Jerry

    ‘– a threat to the State’
    As are all armed populaces.
    Hence the relentless assault on the 2nd amendment which was written to be a threat to the state and not anything to do with hunting, target shooting or even personal self defense ( but don’t tell anyone ! ).

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Where would they get the guns from, and who would supply them? I sometimes think that we need something like The Weapon Shop, a trading entity in a series of science fiction stories; I think Van Vogt was the author.
    Any rich libertarians prepared to start a Pro-Freedom Legion, to sell or barter any type of contraband product or service, including weapons, and mercenaries, trading across the whole planet? (Motto- “Dare to be Free!”)

  • Perry, I’m not sure what you mean by your question. I am not familiar with the situation there, but I see no reason to assume that these communities are not armed in the sense that a Westerner would understand – i.e., that there is some kind of prohibition on possession of personal weapons as typical in most of the Western world these days. This may be the case, I simply don’t know, but I would be surprised at that, seeing as even under Saddam the people of Iraq possessed personal weapons, from what I read in the past. I would indeed like to hear from anyone who knows more about this.

    My larger point is that even if Kurds and Christians are armed with rifles and RPGs, it may still be the case that the thugs who are out to wipe them out are simply better armed and supplied, for all kinds of reasons and from all kinds of sources. Again, if anyone knows, please enlighten me.

  • Paul Marks

    I have been watching them for some time now (via various Middle Eastern television stations).

    They were armed Perry (although not armed as well as they could have been) – but they just did not seem like fighting men to me.

    That is not an insult – I am not a fighting man myself.

    There was no smell of human blood (other than their own) about these people – and no look of the wolf in their eyes (no lust to kill).

    Centuries of being treated as inferiors have taken their toll. And their culture is not an expansionist one (for example they make no effort to convert others – for historically they would be killed if they did).

    I knew they had no chance against ISIS – no matter how many weapons the local people had.

    The warriors of Islam are indeed predators – the lust to kill in their eyes is obvious.

    Even in Israel it takes weeks of basic TRAINING is needed to turn ordinary people into soldiers (killers). And it is the change in mental-attitude that is most important.

    For the warriors of Islam no training to change their attitudes is necessary (just weapons training and so on) – as their mental attitude is already one of predators.

  • They were armed Perry (although not armed as well as they could have been) – but they just did not seem like fighting men to me.

    Militia never do seem like fighting men, yet that was what held the line in (for example) Croatia for the most part in most places during that war. Back in 1993 I used to visit a village in Dalmatia and once had an amusing chat with a portly 65 year old mamma-of-many as I accompanied her going to check on some goats, with a Kalashnikov over her shoulder and four magazines in a very functional locally made pouch decorated with flower patterns (if I can find the photo I will scan and post it as this was ‘pre-digital’)… cetnics had burned the next village so they were taking no chances and but no intention of running away. They also had an RPG and five rockets for it in the house (they complained they had fired off most of the rockets they had been given learning how to use the damn thing but were not given any more to replace it, haha), and I was told the rest of the village was much the same. Every sunday they practised ‘mustering the militia’ (basically just to make sure everyone knew where to assemble and where their weapons and ammo were in the event of an alarm). The village is still there today.

    But I have not seen much evidence there was any serious attempt to organise the Yazidi into a useful militia, probably for exactly the reason many have pointed out (threat to central power). But then given the manifest failure of the Iraqi state to even create a viable national army, no matter how much training over the years the US provided, the fact they could not even organise local militia (which truly is local defence on the cheap) who were confident enough to stand and fight for their own homes… well not surprising I suppose. Moreover a militia’s willingness to stand and fight is often related to knowing they just have to hold on until regulars are sent (my friends in Croatia knew that the Croatian army (ZNG and then HV) would eventually show up once alerted that an attack was happening)… perhaps the Yazidis were not so confident the Iraqi army ever would and it seems the Peshmerga, who seem to be quite effective, are simply overstretched at the moment.

    It takes more than just wanting to kill to be effective and it is generally easier to defend than attack. The centniks were no less ferocious than the jihadis and yet were fought to a standstill on many occasions by acceptably motivated and equipped local militias during the Balkan war. A blood crazed jihadi or cetnik goes down just fine when they intersect with 154 grains moving at 2100 fps fired by a nervous militiaman. But it does take a certain amount of organisation and confidence that the militia is not completely on their own but rather are part of a greater whole. The later does seem to be something Iraq has been singularly bad at.

  • Indeed. So it does seem that this is not an issue of being armed, but rather of motivation, organization, etc.

  • Rich Rostrom

    They are a small minority without access to oil money (Kurds), foreign support (ISIS), or state arsenals (Shia). And guns are not cheap.

  • Paul Marks

    Perry – they (the Christians and so on in Iraq) looked like men who would throw their rifles away and run.

    It did not want to be so blunt – but it seems I have to be. No insult meant – I might have run to.

    You had experience with the Croats (I did not) – but Croat culture was a marital one (for many centuries), they are from people who held back the Ottomans (for the Hapsburgs) for century after century.

    Defending their villages – rather than running away (or falling on their faces and begging for mercy) was their tradition.

    The Kurds are fighters – but the Americans have given them no support.

    Mr Obama seems to dislike the Kurds – perhaps because they have historically been connected with the CIA (whom he hates).

    By the way……

    A sudden very fast attack is not irrational – on the contrary it gives defenders less time to find their weapons, and to aim (especially if the attack is during the night).

    Even the screaming is rational – it puts defenders off.

    Hence the traditional Irish way of dealing with archers…..

    “The first arrow will go wild [as he desperately grabs his bow on seeing a screaming maniac charging at him]- and he will not get a chance to fire a second arrow”.

    Especially effective at night – or at the “peep-of-day” when people are rubbing sleep out of their eyes.

    Still let us hope the Christians (and so on) will improve.

    Although there are not many left – and the knowledge that they are hopelessly outnumbered (and that their “friends” the Shia government in Baghdad are not really friends at all) understandably leads some of them to despair.

    So the traditional English (unofficial) order “steady lads” (designed to steady riflemen, once bowmen, facing any sort of savage attack) will not be enough on its own.

    Although the cultural attitude might be helpful.

    “Oh dear, what a terrible noise that fellow is making as he waves that sharp pointy thing at me – I had best kill him, so I can get some peace and quiet”.

  • Mr Ed

    Paul is right, they need the attitude of, say, a New Zealand sheep farmer, like the one who knew that they don’t like it Upham.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Holy s–sawgrass, Mr. Ed! That is one B-A-A-D Dude! I kept having scenes with Mr. Burton and Mr. Eastwood invading Schloss Stinkenbach play through my head!

    Thanks very much. :>)

  • Because, quite simply, armed people are no match for organised people. Euripides said “10 good men, wisely led will beat a hundred without a head” True 3000 years ago, true today. By flooding the country with arms, you ensure most of them will end up with ISIS. What will defeat ISIS with ease, is a properly constituted NATO-standard army.

  • Because, quite simply, armed people are no match for organised people.

    Oh sure but organising a militia is not rocket science. I have seen it done first hand (and done effectively) in the Balkans.

    By flooding the country with arms, you ensure most of them will end up with ISIS

    ISIS got the weapons and ammunition they needed to push the Peshmerga back by grabbing the US provided arms abandoned intact by the worthless Iraqi army when they bugged out en mass. Rifles, RPGs and distributed distributed ammunition in the hands of a militia is a whole lot harder to take.

    What will defeat ISIS with ease, is a properly constituted NATO-standard army.

    And that was why the US spent all that time and effort trying to produce a properly constituted Iraqi army. But it did not work out well. It might well work out a whole lot better with the Kurds, it must be said. But the only way to get a NATO-standard army in Iraq right now would be to send one from NATO. However as the west (quite rightly) has no interest in going back on the ground in any substantive way, that leaves locals and western air power. Which was exactly how Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance before catastrophic mission creep set in.