No Means No

A US patrol attempts to enter an Iraqi university campus, but is stopped at the gates by campus officials.

Six months ago if we saw this as a lead in to a story, there was a good bet the rest of it would involve the university president being marched out into the streets in chains and follow-up stories desperately trying to link him to some militant faction or another.

But with a little over a month left before the UN mandate expires, and the Status of Forces Agreement set to severely curtail the authority of US forces on Iraqi soil, things turned out a little different. After being told they could only enter unarmed, out of uniform and then only after they make a proper appointment, they turned around and left, no incident.

Asking permission is likely as novel a strategy for the military, used to getting its own way in Iraq on all things, as the notion of getting search warrants before entering peoples’ homes, but with the days of unchecked authority and arbitrary detentions seemingly over its something they’re going to have to get used to. So is hearing “no” when it asks for access.