And you thought it was only good for torture and kinky pictures:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — American commanders in Iraq are expressing grave concerns that the overcrowded Abu Ghraib prison has become a breeding ground for extremist leaders and a school for terrorist foot soldiers.

The reason is that the confinement allows detainees to forge relationships and exchange lessons of combat against the United States and the new Iraqi government. “Abu Ghraib is a graduate-level training ground for the insurgency,” said an American commander in Iraq.

Let that sink in. Our policy on detainees in Iraq is not only violating the Geneva convention and every civilized norm of behavior, but it’s also helping our stated enemies by allowing them to recruit, network and teach each other how to better kill our soldiers. As the Brits might say, isn’t that just bloody lovely?

The American military has halted transferring detainees to Iraqi jailers until the Iraqis improve their prisoner care. But concerns about the growing detainee population under American control have prompted a number of officers to stop sending every suspect rounded up in raids to Abu Ghraib and other prisons. Many inmates might instead be released if initial questioning indicated that they were not hardened fighters against the American troops and the Iraqi government.

“These decisions have to be intelligence driven, on holding those who are extreme threats or who can lead us to those who are,” another American officer in Iraq said. “We don’t want to be putting everybody caught up in a sweep into Jihad University.”

The officers insisted on anonymity to discuss their individual field operations because they are not involved in creating policy for the military across Iraq.

I wonder if anyone has told Rummy how well his “take the gloves off” policy of dealing with Iraqi civilians is working so far. I kind of doubt it, don’t you? Especially when military commanders in the field are independently changing the policy of who gets sent to Abu Gharaib, but still won’t talk about it on the record to reporters.

Of course, we could just solve this whole problem by letting the official Iraqi government take responsibility for these prisoners, couldn’t we? After all, it’s their country, and they are the democratically elected representatives of the Iraqi people. It only makes sense that they be given some of the responsibility for dealing with these “terrorists” and “enemies of the state.”

Well, it seems there’s just a wee little problem with that idea . . .

Plans to turn over Abu Ghraib, three other prisons and their inmates to the new Iraqi government have been stalled despite American commanders’ concerns that overseeing the detainees saps personnel and continues to blot the American image. After a series of raids on Iraqi-run detention centers late last year uncovered scores of abused prisoners, commanders at American and allied prisons said no detainees, or centers, would be handed over to Iraqi jailers until American officials were satisfied that the Iraqis were meeting international standards for detainee care.

Things must be really nasty in those Iraqi run “detention facilities” if our military leaders still believe that retaining control of these overcrowded prisons, despite the drain they impose on our military resources, is preferable to letting the Iraqi government have a go at administering them. I know viewing the latest batch of photos from Abu Ghraib sickens my stomach, but I’m willing to believe them when they say things could be worse.

“There are dozens of people I know it happened to because it happened to me,” he said. Abu Ali was snatched during a raid in his Shia neighbourhood in mid-September and held for six weeks in a similar secret facility, where he and 20 other detainees were subjected to repeated torture.

Such violence, he insisted, was nothing unusual in the prison at a complex in central Baghdad known as the “security school” during the Saddam Hussein era.

“We were all tortured very badly,” he said. “I was handcuffed with my hands behind my back and then hanged from a hook in the ceiling. Then they tied a rope to my legs and pulled until I lost consciousness or my limbs were dislocated. Sometimes they electrocuted us by putting wires on our testicles. And then, of course, every day they would beat us.”

Yes, so far no one’s alleged Americans electrocuted detainees by putting electrodes on their testicles. Placing them, yes, but actually turning on the current, no. We have certain moral standards when it comes to such things, after all.

Of course, we might not have this problem if we didn’t make a habit of detaining quite so many people:

Concerns voiced by military officers in Iraq have intensified in recent weeks, with a growing prison population at the four major detention centers under American and allied control. The overall detainee population stood at 14,767 this week, an increase from 10,135 in June 2005 and a significant jump even from the end of December, when the number stood at 14,055, according to American military statistics.

Abu Ghraib held 4,850 detainees as of Jan. 31, a steep increase from 3,563 last June but a slight dip from 4,924 in late December.

Obviously, someone needs to do some serious re-thinking of our strategy and tactics in Iraq. Unless it’s already too late, that is:

The problem of insurgent networking and instruction in the detention system is part of a broader problem in the American counterterrorism effort. American military and intelligence officers say Iraq has become a magnet for violent extremists from across the Islamic world. The officials warn that violent extremists who are not killed, captured and held or persuaded to give up the struggle will emerge battle tested, and more proficient at carrying out terror attacks elsewhere.

Some officers warn of a parallel to the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, when radical Islamic fighters drawn to fight the Soviet occupiers forged strong relationships with religious extremists from within Afghanistan and across the Islamic world.

Thank goodness for Dick Cheney. Because of his “hunting accident”, the administration, and in particular our dear friend, Scottie McClellan, probably won’t have to answer a single question about this story. Which is, no doubt, just the way they’d like it, despite having to endure jokes by Jay Leno and Jon Stewart about Dick’s poor aim. Indeed, I bet the Medal of Freedom for Big Time (for providing a distraction that went well beyond the call of duty) is already in the works.

0 0 votes
Article Rating