Wednesday, August 24, 2005


When are we going to stop making the problem worse, and make it better?

The discovery of what came to be known as "The Great Escape" tunnel was a seminal moment for the Americans charged with guarding Iraq's exploding prison population. It underscored the fact that the guards were not simply policing more than 6,000 detainees but, in their own way, fighting an enemy that exhibited the same complexity and resilience inside the prison's chain-linked fences and miles of coiled razor wire as it did in the most embattled streets of Iraq. For the inmates, the fight had never stopped. "It was a military operation. It was very organized, and it was very disciplined," said Mohammed Touman, 27, an inmate released May 27 from Compound 5.

Talmadge, the battalion's assistant operations officer, had studied engineering at Virginia Tech. "I was just fascinated by the complexity and simplicity of the whole thing," he said. "The tunnel, it's like perfectly made. It's nice and smooth, the edges of the wall. So we started doing some math calculations. They moved 100 tons of soil in about eight weeks."

"Extremely intelligent, these guys are," said Talmadge.

Many of the freed detainees express bewilderment at why they were held; even the U.S. commander who oversees Bucca, Col. Austin Schmidt, 55, of Fairfax, estimated that one in four prisoners "perhaps were just snagged in a dragnet-type operation" or were victims of personal vendettas.

"This is like Chicago in the '30s: You don't like somebody, you drop a dime on them," Schmidt said. "And by the time the Iraqi court system figures it out, they go home. But it takes a while."

Most Sunni and Shiite prisoners are kept in separate compounds. In the Shiite area, about 20 clerics are in charge. They hand down stern justice. For breaking rules, inmates are denied food or beaten on the soles of their feet with poles, leaving no visible marks. In the more numerous Sunni compounds, inmates elect a leader from their ranks. Once in power, detainees said, his decisions are unquestioned.


We need to respect our enemies if we want to defeat them. Until we face the seriousness of this war, the long term ramifications, we are doomed to lose in too many ways to mention. In the States, the saying goes that being in the American prison system is the best training for a future criminal, as that is where they will learn their skills. Seems like the same thing thing is likely to happen in American prisons in Iraq. If you weren't a terrorist/insurgent/U.S.hater when you went in, chances are you are when you get out. Whether it be al Qaida, Iraq insurgent, Mujahadeen and whomever else, we Americans have sure as hell given them the talking points to sign recruits up:

- Americans want to take over the holy land
- America props up corrupt cruel monarchs as their bitches in the holy land
- America suppports and supplies Israel regardless
- America tortures and kills detainees
- America just wants our oil

I haven't been out on the street of Kabul for a while so the above talking points are just what I could come up with on the spot. I am sure the average Afgan/Iraqi could come up with a few more. And it doesn't matter if the talking points are right or wrong, hell, it doesn't matter in the USA either.

What people are not told is how miserable life would be under Shia law, under a Taliban style government. But no one needs to go that far. The bad Amercan spieel is more than enough.

Like I keep saying, I don't know if the answer pull the troops out now, but I do know that the present plan is an abject failure and the time is now for a reassesment. New leadership, new blood and new ideas are desperately needed. When are we going to stop making the problem worse, and make it better?


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