March 27, 2006
Who Is Policing the Police? We Are.
The New York Times published an amazingly balanced and informative article Friday on our effort to train-up the Iraqi police to the same professional standard that we've trained the Iraqi Army.
Well, "balanced" is a relative term; we are still dealing with the Antique Media, after all. The Times begins by noting the cases where things aren't going well, such as with Firas Sabri Ali, who is admittedly being detained by the Iraqi police (under the Interior Ministry) as "collateral" for his brother, the one the police really want.
"I hope they catch him, because then I'll be released," said Mr. Ali, 38, a soft-spoken man who until his arrest worked for a British security company to support his wife and three sons. "They said, 'You must wait.' I told them: 'There's no law. This is injustice.' "
But with that pro-forma shot out of the way -- I believe such anti-Iraq-democracy anecdotes are formally required by the Sacred Canons of Journalistic Bona-Fides -- the article settles down and shows that American forces actually take seriously such questions of justice and integrity:
Such is the challenge facing the American military as it tries to train the Iraqi security forces to respect the rule of law. Three years after the invasion of Iraq, American troops are no longer simply teaching counterinsurgency techniques; they are trying to school the Iraqis in battling a Sunni-led rebellion without resorting to the tactics of a "dirty war," involving abductions, torture and murder....
The Americans are pushing the Shiite-dominated Iraqi forces to ask judges for arrest warrants, restrain their use of force and ensure detainees' rights.
Couple this policy with the campaign against Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Militia and the political pressure we're bringing to bear on the Shia-dominated Iraq government, and it is very clear that the focus of our attention has shifted from the pre-governmental phase of Iraq's development -- where foreign terrorists like Musab Zarqawi and home-grown insurgents setting off bombs and other terrorist attacks were the chief threat -- to the post-governmental phase, where the most urgent problem is to ensure that the government itself is sustainable as a democratic, representative, just, and inclusive institution.
Much of the problem is due to a simple shortage of judges and facilities. After decades of rule by Saddam Hussein -- and decades more by the Baath Party before that -- there are very few people with actual judicial experience who are not tainted by torture and corruption.
Camp Justice [a makeshift court and police base in northern Baghdad] was never meant to hold prisoners for more than a few weeks. Iraqi law says prisoners to be tried are to be transferred to a Justice Ministry penitentiary after interrogation. But the ministry has been unable to build enough jails to keep pace with arrests. It has 10 centers across Iraq, which hold 7,500 detainees, and an additional 7 are expected to be built, a ministry spokesman said.
So the detainee population at temporary police prisons like the one here, separate from those of the Justice Ministry, has ballooned to more than 10,000 in Baghdad alone, spread across a shadowy network of about 10 centers, an Interior Ministry official said.
But some cases, such as Ali above, are clear cases of abuse themselves.
"The tradition in this country of a law enforcement agency that had absolute power over people, we've got to break them of that," said Maj. Andrew Creel, the departing joint operations officer here. "I think it'll take years. You can't change a cultural mind-set overnight."
But we are making progress. Police recruits at the Public Order Forces acadeny now receive twenty hours of training in respecting the human rights of detainees, two and a half times what they used to get. And we have replaced a number of police and police commanders at units where we have discovered brutality or abuse of prisoners... for example, we replaced the commanders of the Second Public Order Brigade and of the notorious Third Brigade based in Salman Pak.
Col. Gordon Davis Jr., the head of Camp Justice's departing advisory team, praised the Iraqi commander here, Maj. Gen. Mehdi Sabih Hashem al-Garawi, for showing a willingness to embrace human rights....
"I won't say he's gone 180, but he's realized that the best way of getting information is not to beat or abuse detainees," Colonel Davis said as he stood in the operations room, the walls plastered with maps of Baghdad.
"The current generation has been brought up with a certain code and a certain tolerance for abuse," he said in another interview. "They've got to be constantly worked on."
That, alas, is the lasting legacy of Saddam: the Shia are like adults who were abused as children; like them, they imprint the normalcy of abuse and fear -- and inflict them upon others when they have the power. It's very hard to break that cycle, but it must be done if Iraq as a democratic nation is going to endure and serve as a model for others in the Middle East to copy.
The increased attention is paying off in results. In the fall of 2005, American troops made the decision to move in and live with with the Iraqi police units, rather than living separately and simply coming by to inspect once in a while. Now the rate of abuse is much lower, and the Iraqis are more receptive to what we are teaching them about restraint, justice, and rights.
Colonel Davis says the warrant policy has had some effect. Because of it, and because the Iraqis are improving their intelligence gathering, the Public Order Forces no longer round up hundreds of people on each raid, he said. On a typical operation, he added, they may take in a dozen.
After being brought here, the detainees are fingerprinted and have their retinas scanned. A photograph is taken, partly to record their condition at the time of arrest. The Americans have asked the Iraqis to deliver a daily report accounting for all detainees held throughout the division; one recent printout listed 896.
Our strategy is two pronged: on the one hand, we train-up the Iraqi police forces just as we trained up the Iraq Army; and we are seeing the beginnings of the same improvement in professionalism.
On the other hand, we have begun a military campaign against the militias and tribal chiefs who continually try to infiltrate the police and turn them into private armies. Between the two, the Iraq experiment will likely succeed better than nearly anybody today is willing to predict.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 27, 2006, at the time of 6:38 PM
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The following hissed in response by: American Patrol
“…the Iraq experiment will likely succeed better than nearly anybody today is willing to predict.”
What I find to be amazing is how willing and able the people of Iraq are willing to learn and adapt.
Let me make a quick comparison between Iraq and America. There are laws and the enforcement of those laws. The idea and the action rarely correlate 100% but it should be the intention of all government officials. When you look at America’s “debate” over illegal immigration all I see is a massive failure of intention by our executive branch that continues with George W Bush, but it certainly didn’t start there!
I’ll never forget the quote my high school geometry and pre-calc teacher had in his room: If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.
Iraqis are by generally no fault of their own doing what they always did. But they do know the difference between what they got under Saddam and what they want to get as a free, prosperous democratic nation that serves as a model for the entire Middle East.
As far as the NY Times writing such a good article with the bad news first, it’s all about pleasing your subscribers. They please the sensible, and the unsesible don’t read past the first paragraph anyway…
The above hissed in response by: American Patrol at March 27, 2006 9:31 PM
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