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Duke Professor: Sooner U.S. Can Bring Peace To Iraq, Sooner Iraqis Can Rebuild Lives

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DURHAM, N.C. — With the lawlessness that remains in Iraq, it's hard to get a firm grip on when the phase of rebuilding the country can begin.

Baghdad has been engulfed in chaos since United States troops took control of the city on Wednesday. Now comes the next part of the mission for American forces -- bringing peace to an area that's been under oppressive power for years.

According to a Duke University professor, the sooner that happens, the sooner the people of Iraq can rebuild their lives.

As looters in Baghdad continue to tear through what's left of Saddam Hussein's regime, U.S. troops and Iraqi police join forces to calm things down.

"At some level, this was bound to happen," said Chris Gelpi, assistant professor of political science at Duke. "It was just a question of how much."

Gelpi has studied international military conflict and national security issues. He said he wasn't surprised to see mobs of Iraqis storming through government offices, stores and even historical landmarks, stealing anything they could find.

"I think people who have been deprived for a long time see an opportunity to grab resources," he said, "to grab things they have gone without for a long period of time, and it's their chance to make it up."

But now, Gelpi said the most important thing for soldiers to establish is a unified front with Iraqi police, so the city of Baghdad can be rebuilt.

"The more they can do that, the sooner they can do that, the better," he said, "so they can create or make it clear to everyone that we are helping them create a new regime."

Gelpi said the real shame in all the looting is the disregard for Iraqi history. Symbols of cultural heritage, like the presidential palaces and the Iraq National Museum, have all been stripped bare.