HUSAYBAH, Iraq -- Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani called it the “Broken Windows theory.” It is a philosophy that says when you fix the small problems – broken windows in abandoned buildings, for example – concern about the bigger problems flows naturally as a consequence. That approach worked for Giuliani, who saw a dramatic and well-publicized drop in violent crime during his tenure.
Likewise, 6th Civil Affairs Group, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., knows little good will come of efforts to rebuild the municipal government here when the citizens are more concerned with the state of their homes damaged in the fighting during Operation Steel Curtain than whether the courthouse has facilities to start conducting daily business. To that end, 6th CAG began the effort to process condolence claims from the Husaybah civilian population for damage caused during the operation.
The condolence payments are a small part of the overall picture. It is the first step, said Lt. Col. Robert Glover, director, Al Qaim regional Civil-Military Operations Center, to providing governance for and returning normalcy to the citizens whose lives were altered drastically when the insurgents moved into Husbayah and its surrounding towns. American operations to root out the enemy fighters and return the local towns to Iraqi self-rule brought a significant level of destruction to the Al Qaim region. It is now left to 6th CAG and their CMOC to put the area back on track.
“We’re accepting responsibility for having to destroy houses where perhaps insurgents were fighting,” Glover said. “We want the community to understand we’re going to fix the things we break.”
Every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday the CMOC opens to citizens from the Al Qaim region, an area encompassing cities like Husaybah, Karabilah and Sadah in the western part of Iraq. They bring their children and the papers required for an audience with Glover.
“We see about 45 to 60 Iraqis a day,” said Master Sgt. David Minter, senior enlisted advisor to the Al Qaim CMOC.
Not every claim is approved. Glover is skeptical of every claim that comes across his desk initially, until proof is provided in the form of photos, witness statements or empty coalition shell casings found inside the house, he said.
For those claims that are approved, however, it starts another member of the community back on the road to normalcy and, it is hoped, on the road to getting his hands dirty rebuilding the city. Every Iraqi city rebuilt and stabilized means another sanctuary denied to insurgents, more roads safer from improvised explosive devices, and more Iraqi voters safe to pursue their right to participate in their own governance.