Sunday, April 8, 2007
When The Lunatics Run The Asylum
It's hard to imagine that our detention policy in Iraq could outdo the damage of the Abu Ghraib outrages, but according to this Times of London article, we seem to be accomplishing just that:
America’s high-security prisons in Iraq have become “terrorist academies” for the most dangerous militant groups, according to former inmates and Iraqi government officials.
Inmates are left largely to run their blocks, which are segregated on sectarian lines. The policy has created a closed world run by Iraq’s worst terrorists and militias, into which detainees with no links to insurgent groups are often thrown.
It's a pretty scathing indictment, not just of the detention facilities themselves, which despite being the backstop of our counterinsurgency operations (after all, the proportion of insurgents we end up killing is quite small), have never undergone the comprehensive re-evaluation they obviously require.
But also of the entire counterinsurgency cycle itself. Specifically the ease with the insurgents have learned to manipulate the process to their own ends, whether by feeding faulty intelligence into the system to settle scores with their enemies, or by recruiting as yet un-radicalized detainees mistakenly caught up in the system.
Most striking is that, four years into a counterinsurgency war and three years after Abu Ghraib, we still don't seem to have a clue about the crucial role that a well thought out detention policy can play, both in breaking the back of the insurgency, and in forging trust among the non-combatant population. Instead we seem to have designed a system that does the exact opposite.
Update: The LA Times has got a story up on this too, with some more detail and good analysis.