End of the rainbow?

The U.S. military's color-coded rating system reveals that the majority of Iraqi security forces aren't yet fit for duty.

Published May 23, 2005 6:23PM (EDT)

Not just yet. Anyone who was disappointed by the House's vote last week to phase out the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded terror alert system -- the jokesters at Saturday Night Live, who once offered a parody of Tom Ridge giving the nation a "magenta...not quite an oxblood" terror rating, might be sad to see the rainbow go -- will be glad to learn that the U.S. military has exported the rating system to Iraq. But instead of using the system to rate the country's overall threat level (which would only serve as a disheartening reminder that, where terrorism is concerned, the country is on perpetual red alert), the U.S. military is using the color scale to rate the fitness of Iraqi security forces for duty.

According to the Associated Press, each Iraqi military battalion is given a color grade; ratings range from red (meaning "not capable of conducting operations") to green (meaning, presumably, good to go). So far, though, Iraqi security forces are making slow progress through the multicolored rating system. A senior U.S. military official would say only that out of a total of 102 trained and equipped battalions, 76 battalions have received the second-lowest rating of amber (meaning "partially capable") or better.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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