After the discovery in November of a secret Interior Ministry detention facility in Baghdad operated by police intelligence officials affiliated with a Shiite Muslim militia, U.S. officials declared 2006 “the year of the police.” They vowed a renewed effort to expand and professionalize Iraq’s civilian officer corps.
That’s from this Los Angeles Times story that ran on Sunday. And how did those efforts to “expand and professionalize” the Iraqi police force turn out?
Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq’s police force, with abuses including the rape of female prisoners, the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings, according to confidential Iraqi government documents detailing more than 400 police corruption investigations.
Bush administration officials have said time and time again that training a competent and professional police force is the key to stabilizing Iraq so that U.S. troops can start leaving the country. As far as anyone can tell, that effort has failed. It’s failed over and over again. It failed when it was tried in 2003. It failed when it was tried in 2004. It failed when it was tried last year. But supposedly it will succeed this year. Except as we learn from a Guardian report today, police units in Baghdad simply stood by and watched yesterday as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army killed at least 61 Sunnis in Iraq’s ongoing civil war.
So now the U.S. military is going to try to fix this problem by opening up a new front in the war and “conducting operations against the powerful Mahdi Army militia.” Is there any strategy here besides attacking with overwhelming force whatever entity happens to be the number one problem of the day and hoping, futilely, that the security forces will magically improve? As Dahr Jamail says, it’s hard to point to any bit of evidence that suggests that the United States can stop Iraq from disintegrating further by staying in the country indefinitely.
UPDATE: It’s worth reading all the way to the bottom of the LA Times piece. Here’s the administration’s bold strategy for fixing the police force:
Another senior military official said U.S. policy in regard to the ministry [i.e., the Ministry of Interior, which runs the police force and is infiltrated by Shiite death squads and the like] was confused and disengaged. The official, who asked not to be identified because his comments impugned his superiors, said the Pentagon and State Department had failed to coordinate their efforts and were disengaged from the Iraqi police leaders.
“They sit up there on the 11th floor of the ministry building and don’t talk to the Iraqis,” the official said of U.S. police trainers assigned to the Interior Ministry headquarters tower. “They say they do policy and [that] it’s up to the Iraqis well, they’re just doing nothing. The MOI is the most broken ministry in Iraq.”