From detention to logistics

As I wrote earlier, one of the most amazing sections of Deb Cowen’s amazing book is about how after its closure, Camp Bucca was transformed into Basra Logistics City.  Today, yet another article has come out about how Camp Bucca was the incubator for ISIS/Da’ish:

Baghdadi also seemed to have a way with his captors. According to Abu Ahmed, and two other men who were jailed at Bucca in 2004, the Americans saw him as a fixer who could solve fractious disputes between competing factions and keep the camp quiet.

“But as time went on, every time there was a problem in the camp, he was at the centre of it,” Abu Ahmed recalled. “He wanted to be the head of the prison – and when I look back now, he was using a policy of conquer and divide to get what he wanted, which was status. And it worked.” By December 2004, Baghdadi was deemed by his jailers to pose no further risk and his release was authorised.

“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”

I wrote about this process of managing the prisoners in my earlier book:

Statistics indicate that after the surge had begun in 2007, the number of detainees held in US custody in Camps Bucca and Cropper rose to 25,600, of whom only 10–15 percent were ever brought to trial. By then the average duration of detention was 333 days, and around 1,500 (5 percent of all detainees) had been held without charge for more than three years.

The emergence of programs of improvement or “counterinsurgency inside the wire” in Iraq was marked by the appointment of General Doug Stone […], to reform US detention processes. All the adulatory narratives describing Stone mention his graduate degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and his success as a businessman. […] His agenda of reform included segregation of “hard cases” from “moderate prisoners,” provision of vocational training, and, most important, its “true center of gravity, a moderate exegesis of the Qur’an to encourage debate and refute extremist arguments.” Stone hired sixty imams for the “religious enlightenment courses” vetted for the tilt of their political and religious opinion, some two hundred teachers and trainers to teach literacy and vocations, and psychiatrists and counselors to monitor the “progress” of the detainees. Therapeutic approaches were advanced. Short courses were offered on “how you control anger, the oath of peace, the sacredness of life and property.” 

In addition to training, Stone set out to make use of “traditional” disciplinary structures such as tribes and families. The ostensibly tribal “Iraqi cultural operating codes, such as shame and honor and patronage” were activated to encourage detainees to improve themselves. This attachment was concretized further through the exchange of money and obligation. To be released, a detainee had to “secure a guarantor, often a tribal leader, to assume responsibility for their post-release conduct.” The program was lauded by its proponents for “capitalizing” on family bonds by encouraging family visitations to constrain possible radicalism in detainees. Stone himself described the other side of paternalistically encouraging family bonds: reforming detainees meant that not only the detainees themselves but also “the detainees’ web of relatives, friends, and tribesmen who were directly affected by their internment and who, by some estimates, included a half-million Iraqis” could also  be transformed. Detention became a means of disciplining vast numbers through the familial conduit. What was not mentioned is that the tribe was a concept reinvented in the process of occupation, or even more astonishingly, “prior to detention, more than 70 percent of detainees were not fastidious mosque-goers; in fact, 36 percent had never even set foot in one.”* Thus, religion and tribe were introduced in places where they were not prominent, as a means of control and discipline. [for citation and references, see pages 160-167 of the book; * comes from Azarva, Jeffrey. 2009. “Is U.S. Detention Policy in Iraq Working?” Middle East Quarterly (Winter): 5–14.].

This entry was posted in logistics, Middle East, militaries, war. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to From detention to logistics

  1. Kim says:

    Reblogged this on orientalnights and commented:
    Very interesting perspective on the creation of ISIS and the role of American prisons in Iraq therein.

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