Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: New York, NY
Iraqis jailing innocents, U.S. officials say
Sean Naylor article
in ARMY TIMES. Interesting to contrast this article vs. Bing West's POV on the need for more indefinite detentions. In this interview
, an embedded reporter tells us of a similar incident where an Army MITT commander got 79 Iraqi contractors freed who had been reported incorrectly as foreign fighters.
U.S. officers here are increasingly troubled by the high number of innocent Iraqis being detained and held — in some cases for many months — by the Iraqi army.
Several officers who serve as advisers to the Iraqis said at least half the people detained by the Iraqi army in Baghdad are innocent.
And the advisers say their close association with the units doing the detaining is placing the Americans on the horns of an ethical dilemma: On one hand, they are forbidden from taking unilateral action in order to free the prisoners; on the other hand, by not freeing innocent detainees being held by their close allies, they feel complicit in what some termed “a war crime.”
In at least one case, a U.S. officer received a letter of admonishment from a general officer after taking it upon himself to free 35 prisoners he knew had been wrongly detained.
All U.S. officers interviewed for this story also said that the practice of locking up people who have done nothing wrong is counterproductive, and directly contrary to the Army’s new counter-insurgency field manual.
“In [counterinsurgency] environments, distinguishing an insurgent from a civilian is difficult and often impossible,” the manual states. “Treating a civilian like an insurgent, however, is a sure recipe for failure.”
“You detain somebody that shouldn’t be detained
you’re just making them an enemy,” said a senior U.S. Army official in Baghdad.
U.S. and Iraqi army officers said the problems worsened March 1, when, as part of the new Baghdad security plan, the U.S. military transferred authority for running operations in Baghdad to the Iraqi military and the Iraqis assumed responsibility for detainees. Prior to March 1, U.S. officers down to the battalion level had the authority to order the release of detainees, according to the senior U.S. Army official in Baghdad.
U.S. officers said there are two main reasons why the Iraqi army is detaining so many innocents.
The first is what some termed the Iraqis’ “dragnet” approach of arresting all military-age males in the vicinity of an attack on U.S. or Iraqi forces, or of a large weapons cache at the time of its discovery by Iraqi troops.
The second main reason why the Iraqi army is detaining so many people that both U.S. and Iraqi officers are convinced are innocent is that the Iraqi defense and interior ministries are drawing up lists of individuals to be detained and sending them down to brigade and even battalion levels of the Iraqi army, all based on “intelligence” that is never shared with either Iraqi commanders or their U.S. counterparts, according to American and Iraqi officers.
The senior U.S. Army official said he had boycotted a joint targeting meeting with Iraqi generals three months ago because for two weeks running the Iraqis had presented target lists made up entirely of Sunnis. The U.S. official said that when he had told the Iraqis, “You’ve got to have some balance,” they replied that “all the terrorists are Sunnis.”
Falah echoed U.S. officers’ concerns that this process was creating more enemies than it was taking off the streets. “If someone is innocent, and he’s in jail for 12 to 18 months just because it’s a slow process, there’s no way you can fix that person — he’ll be a hateful person after that,” he said.
“We believe right now it’s about 26,000 to 28,000 detainees in jails,” Falah said, adding that the process would also alienate the detainees’ families. Assuming an average of five members per Iraqi family, the detention policy is currently alienating more than 100,000 Iraqis, he said.
“It’s one of the most important challenges facing the Iraqi army,” Duke said. “They’re better than they were three or four months ago at understanding the problem, but they’re not getting better yet at dealing with it. But step one is recognizing that you have a problem.
“How long will it take to regain the trust of the people?” he said. “That’s what concerns me the most. In order to be successful, the people have got to trust the army, and the army’s got to care about the people.
“Right now, we’re not at acceptable levels in either of those.”
The article is worth reading in full.