There were protests the other day over the murder of a fairly prominent Sunni Sheikh here in Baghdad. The murderers were dressed in Iraqi Army uniforms and it happened in a sector patrolled by the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi Brigade Commander tried to meet with the family of the Sheikh and the protesters to try to calm the situation. He made little progress as he was not trusted by the Sheikh's relatives. This matter was immediately elevated to the highest military levels on both the American and Iraqi sides. Several Iraqi Officers here in the TOC suggested repeatedly that American involvement was necessary to calm the situation. Yes, an Iraqi Commander should meet with the protestors, but he must be accompanied by a Senior American Officer. Although most Americans considered this an internal Iraqi matter, many Iraqis did not share that opinion. Neither side appeared to trust the other and wanted American involvement to ensure fair treatment.
I have seen similar situations since my 2nd week after arriving here in January. I am not bringing this up to draw any conclusions with regard to sectarian tension and conflict, other than to confirm that such things do occur here. What I would like to point out is how US Forces are regarded here. We have been asked to supervise or arbitrate at every level from neighborhood to national repeatedly. The reason for this is because of the entrenched culture of corruption of the past 35 years. Whether Sunni, Shia or Kurd, the presence of Americans at neighborhood council meetings, disputes and detention facilities is not only favored, but is often greeted with a sigh of relief. The Iraqis know they will get fair treatment from us because ethnic group, tribal affiliation and political power do not weigh upon our measurement of justice.
This brings two things to mind. Firstly, the average Iraqi will often (not always) trust us more than other Iraqis outside of their family when it comes to fair and humane treatment. Secondly, for all of the people at home and in the media that think we are such a widely hated and mistrusted "occupying force," I would like to know why they think the Iraqis hate their honest broker. I have found that only the arhabi do.