Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fake IDs save lives in Iraq

From Owen Blacker via Idealgovernment:


Fake IDs Save Lives in Iraq

A fascinating AP report[1] says that Iraqis are using fake IDs in light
of the recent growth in sectarian killings. The major groups in Iraq
are not distinguishable by physical traits, but they are by name. To
avoid being killed, people are getting false identification cards:

Surnames refer to tribe and clan, while first names are often
chosen to honor historical figures revered by one sect but sometimes
despised by the other.

For about $35, someone with a common Sunni name like Omar could
become Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite name that might provide safe passage
through dangerous areas.

This illustrates very well how genuinely complex security can be. At
any time, the relevant authorities in Iraq could have decreed that all
people get (as near as possible) forgery-proof biometric ID cards and
carry them at all times -- a great way to batten down a country, right?

Doing so would have fed directly into the strategy being used by the
enemies of peace and security in Iraq today: setting up fake checkpoints
and killing people who arrive there members of the wrong sect. Identity
cards had a role in the Rwandan genocide[2] just over 10 years ago, as

Those who believe that identity cards are a simple route to good
security, well, they suffer what is so rightly known as the fatal
conceit. Central planning that deprives people of control over their
lives can be deadly -- literally -- in surprising and unpredictable

Thank goodness for the fake ID outlets in Iraq today, and thank goodness
the promoters of "secure ID"[3] in the United States didn't take their
message to Iraq."

Thank goodness indeed.

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