Friday, July 30, 2004


"Saddam ... killed in secret. Allawi kills in public"

I titled this post after a quote from a victim of the Iraqi police. But as for Saddam, it's not quite accurate. At first he killed in public; then, after having established his image, he killed in secret. Allawi seems to be following his mentor Saddam.

But this is not about the Australian press allegation that Allawi shot six prisoners in front of witnesses right after taking office. It is in fact about the new Iraqi police.

The Intelligence Service has its own secret prison. Criminals wear uniforms and collect police salaries. Senior security officials hand out jobs to family members. Investigators charged with being watchdogs over the police say they have little or no power. They report to the interior minister rather than to justice itself. The police arrest the innocent, beat them, and imprison them without charge; and in at least one case, police shot dead an innocent bystander.

Less than a month after the interim Iraqi government took power, Iraqi and American officials are struggling to prevent Iraq's new security forces from adopting many of the characteristics of Saddam's feared secret police, say American and Iraqi officials and some civilians who have suffered at their hands. As Allawi faces the dual challenges of a crime wave and an ongoing insurgency — and answering a clamoring desire among most Iraqis for security and stability — officials fear that human rights and honesty in the security forces are being suffocated at birth by a culture of authoritarianism and corruption. It is in part a hangover from the Saddam years and part a response to Iraq's current instability.

"What is right for Iraq? To a certain degree we have tried to instill our values in the country," said Dan Waddington, a senior American adviser to the Iraqi police. "If the people of Iraq believe that type of force is justified to get control of the problems of the country, are we the ones to say no, do it by our standards?"

These are our standards, sir.

The main examples of Allawi's authoritarian style so far have been two large raids on Baghdad neighborhoods. While apparently popular, witnesses said the raids were violent events that swept up many people regardless of evidence.

For two months, the nascent Intelligence Service of the Interior Ministry scouted out the neighborhood of Betaween, a scruffy area of downtown Baghdad well known for its drug pushers, drunks, prostitutes and well-organized criminals.

Well-organized criminals? How about "petty criminals"? If they were all that well-organized they wouldn't be in a scruffy neighborhood. The "nascent Intelligence Service" is in fact a vice squad.

A senior Iraqi intelligence official, who said he spent 15 years in Saddam's Intelligence Service — known, as now, as the Mukhabarat — showed Newsday surveillance photographs of the suspects in the raid.

"We wanted to stop them and give them a hard kick," said the intelligence official, who requested anonymity.

Teach them a lesson, so to speak.

They're following the American model just fine. Don't go after the violent criminals because you could get hurt that way, and don't go after the corrupt businessmen and politicians because they're rich, powerful and protected. No, head downtown to the redlight district and pull a raid.

On June 28, the day the new government took over, about 150 officers from the Intelligence Service, Internal Affairs, Special Response Teams and the police flooded the streets of one section of the neighborhood.

Shock and Awe. Sort of like arresting a pot-smoker here in America. It usually requires the local police, the DEA, and the FBI. If there are to be cameras, they bring in the Swat Team, which looks really cool on the nightly news.

The primitive nature of Iraqi society is revealed by the lack of reporters at the event. Here at home, the media sometimes arrive before the police, which is an annoyance for everyone.

One of the 147 people arrested that day was Faris al-Taher, a soft-spoken 28-year-old immigrant from Sudan who had been in Iraq for only one month, looking for a long-lost brother and a job. He was in a friend's store when the police came, he said last week. They dragged him into the street and herded him with about 15 others to another street. There, he said, they handcuffed him — he still has the scars on his left wrist — and beat him with sticks.

Good thing he wasn't a demonstrator.

All of the men arrested were taken to a big cell in the Interior Ministry, al-Taher said. For three days, they were given food and water only once.

Three days after his arrest he was released, he said, without charge, explanation or apology.

Well, at least they let him live. What's the problem?

When asked why the police and intelligence officers had arrested so many innocent people, a Betaween-based intelligence official said: "If the criminal was in a room with four persons, we arrested those persons to obtain information about why they were in a room with the criminal."

Don't you love the guilt-by-association concept? We've elevated it to new heights here at home.

The official denied that any violence had been used in the raid, except when suspects resisted with force.

Ah, yes. The old resisting-arrest ploy. I've seen many a jail cell filled that way. Not to mention some really excellent head-banging.

Who's doing the training?

By now you're probably wondering how the Iraqi police were brought up to American standards so quickly. And well you should, because the corporation hired to train them is none other than Dyncorp out of Texas.

According to the help-wanted notice on DynCorp’s Web site, the company will pay as much as $153,600 for senior people in Iraq for one year. On top of that, they get all their living expenses, and most of their salary is tax-free — a package that will cost taxpayers as much as $400,000 to put each trainer in Iraq.
.... A U.S. official acknowledged that $153,000 is the top pay bracket, adding that most trainers will make about $100,000.
The initial contract was approved quietly and quickly, with only one other company invited to bid. The administration tells Congress the final cost will be $800 million more over the next two years.

So are the DynCorp employees worth their big salaries? The work is high-risk. Three weeks ago, three DynCorp security men guarding embassy employees in Israel were killed by a bomb in the Gaza Strip.

It's so high risk that they're actually going to be doing it in—Jordan.

But what's in it for the Iraqi police? Dinero, darling.

According to Newsday,

There are so many corrupt, violent and useless police officers in the new Iraqi police force that, according to a senior American adviser to the Iraqi police, the U.S. government is about to pay off 30,000 police officers at a cost of $60 million to the American taxpayer.

This is a very odd sentence. Are they being "paid off" as a reward for being "corrupt, violent and useless"? In any case, I'm sure they're a bargain at any price.

Related post: Mud-wrestling: Dyncorp vs. Aegis (Updated)

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