Friday, December 21, 2007

New breed of 'insurgents'

Dec.21, 2007

A new breed of 'insurgents'

The "surge" in US forces in Iraq — from 135,000 soldiers at the beginning of 2007 to 165,0000 soldiers today — is described as a success, with a decline in insurgent attacks in Baghdad. What is not being highlighted by the US military is the detention campaign that it launched along with the surge that now sees some 30,000 Iraqis being held at the two main prisons operated by the US military in Iraq, at Camp Bucca near Basra and Camp Cropper in Baghdad.
Many of these prisoners who were arrested mainly on suspicion rather then concret evidence that were involved in the insurgency.
On the other hand, it could be argued that the better level of security is a direct result of the higher numbers of detainees. In reality, however, the improvement in security could have also come from the shifting attitudes of Iraqis as the state of terror they are living through.
The Iraqi government is believed to hold some 20,000 people accused of having taken part in the insurgency. Again, their actual affiliation with any organised group is subject to debate, particularly given that many of them were detained by Iraqi government forces acting upon tipoffs from "informants" whose motivations have highly questionable.
At some point, the US military and the Iraqi government have to start releasing the prisoners, the bulk of whom have not been formally charged or subject to any other judicial process.
According to Major-General Doug Stone, who oversees detainees for the US-led force, many of the prisoners were motivated mostly by money and most only desire to live peacefully. Many can be safely released back to society, back to their families and in their neighbourhoods without straining security or their communities, he says. He could indeed be oversimplifying the situation because he overlooks that the result of detention and incarceration without trial would only be, among most victims, anger, desparation, frustration and hate for the system .
The "risk" that the US military and the Iraqi government see in releasing the prisoners is that some of whom who were never part of the insurgency could jump the fence and join the camp of the insurgents simply because of their detention and the treatment they received at the hands of their captors.
That was what Marine Commandant General James Conway means when he says: "If you roll up 150 guys in a village and you don't have probable cause, you've just created 150 little terrorists."
Given that the US military does not believe in any mass release of prisoners, many in detention are likely to remain in Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper for months, and we are talking about thousands of Iraqis who cannot be expected to have anything but resentment and hostility towards the US and their own government.
Detaining people on slightest suspicion and denying them the due process of law is definitely not the way to win an insurgency. The US is starting to learn the lesson a bit too late because the damage has been already done and adds to the problems created by the throughtless manner the US went about invading and occupying Iraq.