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A disarming question.

According to reporters in Kuwait City, Iraqi troops left many of their weapons and much of their ordnance - that is, grenades, plastique, detonators, fuses, etc. - behind as they fled during the final days of the Gulf War. The temptation to the Allied troops to bring them home, despite long-standing military policy against the collection of souvenirs, must be great.

Estimates are not available concerning the quantity of abandoned armament and ordnance, but it is large. Reports of widespread destruction of buildings and vital structures prompted President Bush to characterize the action as a scorched-earth policy by the Iraqis. Much of that destruction was done with explosives.

One recent report indicated that explosives had been packed into pipes by the Iraqis in an attempt to destroy the water reserves in Kuwait City. The ordnance had to be cleared for water service to resume. The report also indicated that US forces were spending much of their time clearing ordnance from the rest of the city.

It is clear from other reports that Iraqi engineers were highly trained and that explosive ordnance made up a significant portion of their weapons repertoire. These problems aren't limited to Kuwait City, either. Thousands of live antipersonnel and anti-tank mines are still along the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and will have to be destroyed or rendered inert.

On US soil, the souvenirs of war pose a threat to civilian safety. Approximately half a million troops will eventually return home. Along with the troops will come the souvenirs. Souvenirs will mainly consist of AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons discarded by Iraqi troops.

Along with the weapons, unexploded ordnance will trickle in as the troops are transported back home. Many of the souvenirs will be taken and transported without criminal intent.

It is also doubtful that most people, including military unit commanders, would begrudge the troops a few indiscretions in light of their courageous and professional conduct during the war.

The problem will shift from potential to real as the men and women who served resume their lives back home. Those souvenirs will rest in the closets and attics of America, just as they have in all military conflicts that American troops have participated in since the Revolutionary War. Through burglaries and thefts, those cherished articles of memorabilia will find their way into the darker side of our society - exactly where they don't need to be.

The criminal element in our society has always had access to the tools of the trade. So many of those tools are dual-purpose. None is more useful, though, than military hardware that cannot be accounted for.

With these weapons of war, criminals will engage peaceful, law-abiding citizens on their own territory at home. A new war will be waged with an increasing number of weapons that are virtually invisible to the techniques and tracking systems currently used by law enforcement agencies.

Criminal elements also exist in the military. The Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Military Occupational Specialties in the security and law enforcement fields bear witness. A small, seemingly insignificant number of military personnel will have criminal intent with respect to the weapons.

That criminal element will transport a significant quantity of captured weapons and ordnance into the United States as well as abroad. Those souvenirs will take a more direct route to the criminal market than theft or burglary.

On arrival, they will be warehoused and sold in quantity. Some of those weapons will eventually end up in legitimate collections, while many will be sold indiscriminately to whoever can pay the price.

Weapons don't last forever. They degrade or become unusable with time. Fortunately, armed robbers and gang members usually don't get a sophisticated education in the care and maintenance of the weapons they use.

It is doubtful that criminals are concerned with whether or not their weapons have been properly cleaned and lubricated before firing. It may not matter, though, if there are enough new weapons to choose from.

Ironically, the military conflicts that have been most unpopular, those lasting a long time, have been the basis for a much smaller infusion of weapons into the country over a longer period of time.

Lack of availability contributed to a smaller and slower infusion. In Korea and Vietnam, for example, the enemy usually took their weapons with them as they retreated or regrouped, therefore making the weapons less available. Weapons that were left behind were often booby-trapped, making the prospect of souvenir gathering less desirable.

The slower infusion of weapons into the country during those conflicts meant an increased likelihood of degradation in the individual weapon. It also meant that weapons were, and still are, being taken out of circulation more consistently over time as criminal busts are made, contraband seized, and weapons turned in or disposed of for personal reasons.

In contrast, two important facts about the Gulf War warrant consideration by security and law enforcement administrators, especially at this time:

* More arms, ammunition, and explosives are concentrated in one small place than have ever been before in the history of military actions throughout the world.

* Roughly half of those weapons were left behind by the retreating Iraqi army. Many of those weapons may be available for the taking.

From the security perspective, the potential for a huge, sudden influx of weapons and ordnance into the country should cause some concern.

At the early stage, before the bulk of the troops returned, one hopes that military security and law enforcement units played a preventive role to ensure that equipment could be accounted for. Care should also have been taken to process personnel thoroughly prior to their departure from the theater of operations.

At this end, returning personnel and belongings should also be monitored once they arrive in the United States. Baggage on military transportation is not usually subject to the same scrutiny it receives from civilian carriers.

In the civilian sector, other issues need to be addressed. For police administrators the problem is ongoing. The beat officer has long been outgunned by the more organized criminal factions. Officer safety is going to have to be a priority. Law enforcement personnel, more than ever, will need to be deployed with armament at least equal to the threat.

More staffing will be needed in the investigation of weapons-related crime, with an increased emphasis on coordination with the appropriate federal agencies. Sharing intelligence data bases as well as developing more comprehensive software to manage the influx of information is also a necessity.

Recent data indicate approximately four private or contract security officers exist for every certified law enforcement officer in the United States. Police investigators need to use those officers more often to supplement their intelligence information while conducting investigations.

Problems that traditionally plague security managers, such as bomb threats, should be given more attention. It might be prudent to review the existing policy with respect to those problems and suggest that more stringent measures be adopted. It might also be wise to evacuate in response to each threat for some time and err on the side of safety.

Access control procedures should also be reviewed and upgraded if necessary. Not long ago, a disturbed ex-employee used his company identification to board a plane with some explosives. A more comprehensive access control procedure might have prevented the problem.

It would be a mistake for management to be lulled into a false sense of security by the quick and victorious end to the Gulf War. Now more than ever security managers need to emphasize to upper management the need for comprehensive countermeasures.

While the troops that served valiantly deserve every bit of respect and honor that can be given, consideration should be given to the potential for destruction on the home front. Souvenir gathering should be discouraged if not prohibited for our safety at home. Special attention must also be paid to those criminally inclined individuals who would profit from the sale.

Policymakers need to be made aware of an increase in the potential threat due to the greater availability of the tools of crime. The need for security is increasing, not decreasing.

John M. Warner is a security specialist and CEO of the Rockwell Agency in Mesa, AZ, a consulting firm that specializes in safety and security.
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Title Annotation:Special Seminar Issue; weapons from the Persian Gulf War as souvenirs
Author:Warner, John M.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:A lesson learned.
Next Article:Safer schools by design.

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