Constabulary Operations and Prison Overcrowding

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 5 months ago

A consistent theme presents itself in Multinational Force press releases when raids and other kinetic operations are discussed.  Many insurgents choose to die rather than surrender, and when they make this choice, they die.  When they surrender, the Multinational Forces have captured “high value targets and remanded them for prosecution” through whatever judicial process Iraq can claim to have.  Or perhaps not.

Azzaman is routinely propagandistic, contextually biasing the facts on the ground in Iraq by their coverage.  But when the reader can see through the propaganda, the facts are useful.  I began monitoring the prison situation in Iraq some months ago, and this interest peaked when I read the March 17, 2007, account by Azzaman of the current situation of the prisons.

The population of prisons in Iraq has soared in recent months with tens of thousands of Iraqis currently in U.S. custody without trial.

U.S. troops and Iraqi government are investing heavily in the construction of prisons in the country with more than 100,000 Iraqis currently behind bars.

A parliamentary investigation commission has found that U.S. troops alone now detain more than 61,000 Iraqis and the figure is expected to swell as the Americans press ahead with their military operations.

More than 50,000 Iraqis were reported to have been arrested in the past four weeks as part of the joint U.S.-Iraqi military campaign to subdue Baghdad.

U.S. troops detain Iraqis merely on suspicion. Once detained, Iraqis may stay indefinitely as they are denied access to lawyers and Iraqi courts and government have no right to question U.S. troops’ actions.

Even Iraqi troops operations and activities now fall beyond the Iraqi judicial system as the country has been placed under emergency rule under which the courts have no power to question what the security forces do.

The last two paragraphs are false.  On June 15, 2007, Owen and Bing West had an insightful and hard hitting commentary in the New York Times on these issues.  They began by criticizing the strategy.

WHILE waiting to see if the Iraq surge strategy pays off, President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have shown Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the door and brought in Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute as the new White House “war czar.


Comments

  1. On June 20, 2007 at 5:35 am, Dominique R. Poirier said:

    I find that article and its subject interesting, indeed.

    About insurgents who choose to die but to surrender I cannot but wonder what Patrick Henry and Nathan Hale would say about that? On my side, and as long as we are talking about insurgence and not kamikaze, I perfectly understand the point of view of those insurgents who choose death.

    About prisons, I believe that their purpose is relevant to criminal law. About those who are jailed because they have been caught in flagrante delicto of insurgency I would consider other options which proved to be successful in Europe during WWI and WWII and elsewhere in the world during other times. I justify my point bellow.

    Time after time in Korea, American prisoners of war were aced with challenges to their sense of themselves as Americans that threatened to crack the armor of moral superiority like an eggshell, and often American cultural insularity, as expressed in the inability or unwillingness to eat unfamiliar food, led to death from malnutrition. But in the Chinese communist effort to win over or mold minds, the indoctrination of prisoners of war in North Korea was helped tremendously by the political ignorance of most G.I.; and by their interrogator’ deep knowledge of American culture. Instead of having relative insurance about a clear adversity, as in WWII, soldiers in Korea were left adrift, wondering who we were fighting for and why, how American interests, let alone American value, were being threatened.

    “The mind of the enemy and the will of its leaders is a target of far more importance than the bodies of his troops,

  2. On June 20, 2007 at 5:02 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Dominque,

    You have made a sweeping and comprehensive comment that has made me think a bit more about the prison situation. Rarely do I want to write as much as would be required to fully flesh out my position on these types of issues. It would take too long to read, it would bore those who tried, and it may even bore me. That said, let’s expand these ideas a little.

    Your comment goes again to motive and whether imprisonment works, and works towards what end? This theme (motive, correction of behavior) is consistent with us and discussions about COIN.

    For the record, I do not believe in the healing, therapeutic or rehabilitative powers of imprisonment. More specifically, I do not believe that imprisonment can change a man’s soul (except perhaps for the worse). If it is claimed that imprisonment can modify behavior simply by impetus to avoid punishment, I agree, but still claim that this isn’t behavior modification from a change in moral constitution. It is little more than a Pavlovian experiment.

    I believe in restitution and retribution. If a man steals, he has offended another man, not society. He should pay back two or three fold. Violent crimes warrant the death penalty. The concept of prisons for rehabilitative purposes is a concoction of mankind, and it is an inefficient concoction at that.

    But given the litigious, post-modern society we live in along with the lawyers to gum up the works, we have what we have and must work with it. Let’s put this as simply as possible. For Iraq at the present, I do not believe that the “justice system” can handle the influx of prisoners, especially now that there is an offensive underway. The prisons are already overcrowded, and more will only make things worse.

    But what more prisons can do is delay the release of the hardest of the insurgents. Note the phrase “catch and release.” It comes from fishing. When you don’t keep them, you catch them, take them off the hook, and then release them into the water.

    This is how the solder and marine feel at the present. “Catch and release.” They are being released so quickly back into the environment that the environment hasn’t changed since they were last there.

    The goal of imprisonment, in the case of Iraq, is to hold them long enough that the environment is vastly different than when they went into prison. This difference, hopefully, is one in which their violence is not welcome, one in which a stable Iraq has become a reality. This may take three years. Or it may take six more years. Either way, we must construct the prisons to hold them and have the courage to do it. Catch and release will not work to end the insurgency.

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You are currently reading "Constabulary Operations and Prison Overcrowding", entry #525 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Constabulary Actions,Iraq and was published June 19th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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