Thursday, February 9, 2012

American Negligence In Iraq, Or How The United States Failed To Plan For Securing The Country: Part One Of A Two Part Interview With Jerry Burke, Former Advisor To The Baghdad Police And Interior Ministry

Jerry Burke in front of a destroyed Iraqi tank (Police Futurist)

In May 2003, Jerry Burke, who at the time was the head of the New England Institute of Law Enforcement Management, was asked if he would be interested in travelling to Baghdad to carry out an assessment of the Iraqi police. He took up the offer, and found a police force in utter disarray. Most of its officers had abandoned their posts, police stations were looted and burned, and the government was non-existent. The U.S. was wholly unprepared for such a situation. Instead of having a plan in place before the March 2003 invasion, Burke and his team found themselves analyzing the Iraqi police, so that a program could be put together to secure the country, which would take months to implement. The lack of adequate preparation set the stage for what Burke would face during his two tours in Iraq, first as part of a Justice Department Assessment Team in May 2003, then as an advisor to the Baghdad Police from May 2003 to June 2004, and finally as part of an assistance mission to the Iraqi Interior Ministry from March 2005 to February 2006.  During those years, he found a U.S. government that lacked the commitment to truly rebuild Iraq, which undermined the transition from a dictatorship to a democracy that Burke and others were working on. In the process, the rule of law was never fully established in Iraq. Burke later went on to work in Palestine and Afghanistan, and is currently serving as an advisor with a foreign police force in the Middle East.

1. You spent two tours in Iraq. What were the dates for those, and what were your duties?

The first tour started as an assessment, and evolved into my becoming the Senior U.S. Advisor to the Baghdad Police Chief. That tour went from May 15, 2003 to June 22, 2004. The second tour began less than a year later with an assignment as a National Security Advisor to the Iraq Ministry of Interior, specifically the Deputy Minister for Police Affairs.  That tour went from March 5, 2005 to February 22, 2006.

2. How did you end up being contacted to work in Iraq?

I was working as the Director of the New England Institute of Law Enforcement Management at Babson College under a contract with the New England Association of Chiefs of Police. A retired chief, working on a Security Sector Reform (SSR) project in Latin America, called and asked if I would be interested in going to Baghdad as part of the first U.S. Government combined Department of State/Department of Justice Assessment Team. 

3. Before you went to Iraq were you aware of any of the pre-war planning for the Iraqi police?

Before accepting the first assignment I was only casually aware of any pre-war planning from U.S. TV news. I had no knowledge of any Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) or Security Sector Reform (SSR) planning until after I accepted the contract offer.

4. Richard Mayer of the Justice Department came up with one plan to bring in 5,000 international police to help with the Iraqis. The White House vetoed that idea, because it didn’t want responsibility for running post-war Iraq. Do you think that sort of set the stage for the problems that the U.S. would later face when it did end up occupying Iraq for the next several years, and had to rebuild the police?

I met Dick Mayer during some of the pre-deployment meetings, and became somewhat familiar with his plan. During the run-up to deployment there wasn't enough time to become thoroughly familiar with it. The Mayer Plan was based on, and an extrapolation, of the Civilian Police missions in the Balkans with consideration of the Iraqi situation as it was understood. Subsequently, during the first months of deployment I became more familiar with the Mayer Plan. In my opinion, the Mayer Plan would have been an excellent plan to start with. The Mayer Plan would have been expensive, and at the time, Spring 03, there was no funding in either the State Department or Justice Department for any DDR or SSR programs. Our first contract was only a two-month contract as funds were found and transferred from other State and/or Justice programs. If I recall correctly, I had 5 or 6 small contracts during my first, thirteen month, tour. The Mayer Plan would have required hundreds of millions of dollars that simply were not available. In the long run however, the Mayer Plan may have been cheaper and more effective.

5. You arrived in Iraq just after the government had fallen. What did Baghdad physically look like at the time? Was there still looting going on? What was the mood of the Iraqis that you met with?

Most of the major looting was over by the time I got there. The looting that was still going on was mostly for scrap metal and used office furniture. Most of the combat damage was very localized and limited to the targets themselves. The accuracy of our cruise missiles and guided bombs is amazing. One interpreter told me stories of going up on his roof to watch cruise missiles fly by and then turn toward their targets.

Most of the Iraqis I met - most of whom were police, government employees, and Iraqis who came to work for Coalition components - were cautiously optimistic to skeptical. Most had a wait and see attitude even while cooperating with us. Most were confused by the obvious lack of a post-war plan. 
For the first few months, May through August 2003, the city was relatively quiet, and we had complete freedom of movement in Baghdad. I was able to visit many police stations, visited many Iraqi homes for dinner, and ate at many restaurants across the city. In August 2003, the Jordanian embassy was bombed twice, and then the United Nations HQ at the Canal Hotel in East Baghdad. Those were the first significant bombs of the insurgency.

6. How many people were in your team?

The US Criminal Justice Assessment Team consisted of 3 corrections executives, 6 police executives, about a dozen judicial officials such as former judges and prosecutors, and then some project managers, and office personnel. Through the course of the Summer and Fall of 2003, those numbers dwindled as individuals’ contracts expired. By October/November 2003, there were only 2 U.S. Police Advisors left in Baghdad. Additional Police Advisors did not arrive until December and January 2004. By June 2004, there were still less than 100 U.S. Police Advisors in country. At first, the Iraqis couldn't imagine how 6 police executives were going to reform the entire Iraqi Police Service in a country of 25 million people. Neither could we!

7. What were the major findings and recommendations of your assessment team?

I frequently joke, and say the Executive Summary of our assessment could simply have stated that, "the Iraqi Police need everything." Almost all of the police facilities including the eleven story Ministry of Interior building had been looted, ransacked, stripped of all doors, windows, furniture, electrical fixtures, and set on fire. In many places entire new facilities would need to be built. Almost all the former police vehicles had been stolen, often by the police themselves or destroyed. Almost all of their training under Saddam had been designed to defend and support the regime. Entire new recruit, supervisory, leadership, and specialized training curricula would need to be designed, developed, and delivered to thousands of policemen across the entire country. 

8. Were you happy with that early report?

Yes, I thought the report was professional and thorough, especially for the harsh and dangerous conditions under which it was written, and I am proud to have contributed to it.

9. How much of that report was acted upon?

The most important recommendation of the report, the size of the international police advisory mission was totally ignored. Everything else was dependent upon having the human assets available to do the work. Whether the decision not to follow that recommendation was made by Paul Bremer, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or President George W. Bush himself is irrelevant - the administration failed to fulfill its responsibilities.

10. Do you think sending in an assessment team rather than trainers and advisers right away was a problem for the U.S. plans for Iraq’s police?

Sending just an Assessment Team was simply a delaying tactic for political inaction. The Assessment Team produced a report very similar to the Mayer Plan. Paul Bremer and others dramatically slashed the Assessment Team’s recommendations, down to a total recommended advisory contingent of 1,500 people. No more than 1,000 were to be Americans. The revised Assessment then formed the basis of a budget request sent to Congress. A supplemental budget to fund these advisors was passed by Congress in October 2003 five months after the Assessment Team arrived in Baghdad. The first group of 15 advisors arrived in December and another 24 in January 2004. By then we were so far behind the curve of the insurgency and Coalition mismanagement that it was impossible to catch up.

11. Just after you got to Iraq, Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner was placed in charge of rebuilding the Iraqi police. Did he achieve anything or was that all for show?

Bernie arrived a few weeks after we did and, from my perspective of working the streets of Baghdad and visiting several police stations every day, his impact was minimal. At first, his image as the "Police Commissioner of 9-11" grabbed everyone’s attention. What influence he had on Paul Bremer (CPA Administrator) I don't know, but things didn't get better during his brief three months in Baghdad. The few times I encountered him in the Republican Palace in the Green Zone he was accompanied by a New York Times reporter. The impression I got was that his time in Baghdad was just to pad his resume. 

12. What was the state of the Iraqi police under Saddam before the U.S. invasion?

The Iraqi Police Service was a typical military style organization with enlisted men and an officer corps. The officers were very proud of their heritage going back to a British style constabulary with a British Commissioner seconded from England prior to Saddam and the Ba'ath Party. Under Saddam and the Party, the police were gradually relegated to a lesser and lesser role as a variety of security agencies were created to protect the regime. Eventually, there would be nearly twenty such security agencies. During the Iran-Iraq War, the Iraqi Police became a refuge from military service against Iran for educated and politically connected Iraqis. All of the officers I met had the equivalent of at least a bachelor's degree.  Many had been educated or trained outside Iraq especially in former communist countries in Eastern Europe. By the time of the invasion in the spring of 2003, fear of encounters with other more powerful security agencies had led the police to adopt somewhat of a Fire Department attitude. That is, they were reluctant to leave the police stations unless directed by a judge or called by another agency for support. 

When we first visited the Police Academy in east Baghdad’s Rusafa District it had been totally looted and ransacked. Among the debris in some of the buildings, nearly a foot deep in some places, we found copies, English language copies, of FBI Law Enforcement Bulletins, a monthly official FBI publication. As we talked with the commanders in Baghdad we found they were eager to try to return to what they considered the 'glory days' of policing circa 1940s and 50s. 

13. Were former police officers allowed to return to their jobs?

In the early days, thousands of men arrived at the Baghdad Police Academy to return to duty. There was no way we, nor the U.S. Military Police (MP) could confirm that any of these men had been police officers before the war. There were no rosters of former policemen, and even if there were, they would have been in Arabic. The MPs had only a few Iraqi-American translators that could not be spared to review scattered documents and our team came in without any translators with the expectation of hiring local English speaking Iraqis. There simply were not enough American soldiers or civilian advisors to properly sort through the chaos. Remember, our original and primary mission was to conduct an assessment of the police and the criminal justice system, not to stand up a new Iraqi Police Service at that point in time. 

A few English speaking Iraqi men we believed (hoped) were former policemen helped sort through the confusion of thousands of former policemen returning to work. Under Saddam, the police wore military uniforms where only the rank insignia was a different color.  Transfers between the military, the police, and other uniformed agencies were common under Saddam. Undoubtedly, some former military or intelligence officers returned to work as police without our knowledge. Gradually, the remnants of the Baghdad Police returned to work, and a semblance of a police department began to form. Credit for this in Baghdad goes solely to the 18th Military Police Brigade and its Commanding Officer, Colonel Teddy Spain.

(An interview with Col. Ted Spain can be read here)

14. Was their any vetting of these returnees? Why or why not?

Very little vetting of the returning police was done. The priority was to stand up a new Iraqi Police Service (IPS), and let the Iraqis sort out the problems later. We were forced to rely upon Iraqis we learned to work with and to trust. There were no official documents that survived the looting and burning. Men returning presented old, poor quality identification cards, with old faded photographs, presumably of them when they were perhaps ten years younger. Occasionally, some officers would approach us and identify other men who they claimed were not real policemen. Whether these were legitimate complaints or personal vendettas was difficult to determine. 
Iraqi police at a graduation ceremony in Feb. 2012 (Reuters)
15. How about for the new recruits, was their background checks, etc.?

Again, the priority was to stand up a new national IPS consisting of thousands of policemen.  The initial goal in Baghdad was a force of 18,000 policemen. We, and by that I mean mostly the U.S. military across Iraq, would be forced to rely upon local, trusted Iraqis to verify and vouch for new recruits. Some recruitment standards such as height and weight were easy to verify, but other standards such as criminal background check, educational qualifications, and even someone's age were nearly impossible to verify. Local, sometimes self-identified community and religious leaders were used to help with this process. One story that I never had the time to confirm was that a new recruit sent to the Baghdad Airport to be sent to Jordan for training was discovered to have an artificial leg. Again, the attitude was to stand up a new IPS, and let the Iraqis sort it out later. 

16. Do you have any rough numbers on how many Iraqi police were on duty by the end of 2003?

I don't recall exactly, and the answer would depend on the definition of "on duty." There were probably 7,000-9,000 officers on the payroll in Baghdad. Who they were, where they worked, if they worked at all, was an Iraqi responsibility. The U.S. and Coalition military did not have enough men to conduct roll calls of the Iraqis. It almost sounds racist, but we were dealing with a homogeneous population of men with olive complexion, black hair, and a mustache. There were reportedly some men who were on the payroll under multiple names in different locations, and giving kickbacks to officers to keep their names on the payroll. Undoubtedly, there was a lot of nepotism, cronyism, and ghost employees throughout the IPS, but we did not have the resources or the time to investigate. 

17. When the Iraqi police returned to their jobs they were facing an almost insurmountable situation in the country with the growing insurgency and the emergence of the militias. Can you give any first hand accounts of what that early period was like for the police?

At the beginning in the spring of 2003, the violence was scattered, and relatively low level.    Sniping at U.S. and Coalition military, and Iraqi Police was common. There were some revenge and honor killings, kidnappings, torturing, and disappearances. Some police and government officials returning to work were assassinated. One colonel that worked with us was at a restaurant having coffee with friends when a man walked up to him, called him by name, and shot him three times killing him. During our first week in Baghdad, our hotel was the target of almost nightly harassing sniping. One afternoon while working on the mezzanine level of the hotel, I learned that I could still do the low crawl as our hotel was shot at around 2 o'clock in the afternoon. By September 2003, almost every Iraqi Police station had been the target of a serious attack by either small arms fire (AKs usually), rockets, mortars or car bombs. This would continue during the winter and into the spring and summer of 2004, and on into the insurgency in 2005 -2007.

18. Your group recommended 6,600 foreign advisers and trainers for the Iraqi police, but that never happened, why?

I suspect the reasons were several. First, the costs would have been very high. In 2003, there was very little money available for anything other than the military. The reputed dispute between Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell was also a significant factor. It appeared to us 'outsiders', civilian contractors, that career State Department officials were not going to 'play' in Iraq, and perhaps even wanted the Defense Department to fail. Even if the Assessment Report had been accepted in its entirety, it would have taken perhaps two years to fully implement. Recruiting, vetting, training, and deploying a contingent that large is no easy task. The political decision to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis by June 2004, while very shortsighted, was a political expediency. The U.S. was not prepared - militarily, politically, strategically, tactically or psychologically for the commitment to rebuild Iraq as a true democracy. This was blatantly obvious with the structure of the Interim Iraqi Government drawn along sectarian lines by the Coalition under Bremer. We aided and abetted the ethnic tensions that emerged during the insurgency.

19. At most there were around 900-1000 American trainers for the Iraqi police, what were their main duties?

Most of the U.S. trainers functioned as Mobile Training Teams visiting police stations and other facilities, and conducting short in-service training programs. Others were assigned directly to a regional police academy. In many areas, the Mobile Teams lived on military Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), and were under the direct control of the U.S. military commander. For a variety of reasons, including operational security, most teams were outside the wire only 2 or 3 days a week, and limited to visiting 1 or 2 stations per day. A Mobile Team might have 20 or more police stations assigned to it, which meant they might only be able to visit a given police station once or twice a month. Especially, when you factor in individual's leave, Fridays as the Muslim equivalent of Sundays as a day off, various U.S. and Christian holidays (there are Iraqi Christians), and various Islamic holidays. Ramadan itself is 28 days long, and very few Iraqis or Muslims work more than a few hours in the daytime. There are two Eids or multi-day feasts, Eid al Fitr, immediately following Ramadan, and Eid al Adha that are sort of a combination of Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Then every meeting begins with an extended period of pleasantries and obligatory cups of chai, coffee or occasionally, an orange soda. It is considered rude to immediately begin talking about professional issues. For security reasons, most visits were unannounced to avoid ambushes, and attacks if the meeting was scheduled in advanced. With unannounced visits, you never knew who, if anyone, was going to be at the police station when you arrived. Some teams would go into lock-down for a week or two after a series of attacks in their area. Much of the training was uncoordinated and improvised, depending upon the situation-on-the-ground where each Team operated. In some situations, Mobile Teams would be pulled from their primary duties to provide security for other Teams. 

20. How did the lack of trainers affect the overall program to rebuild the Iraqi police?

In my opinion, after nearly eight years in the region, the Mobile Teams were effective when properly deployed - unfortunately, that was a rare occasion. That being said, the Mobile Teams were much more effective on a one-for-one basis than the military. What the military had, that the civilian trainers didn't have, was seemingly unlimited manpower. If necessary, the military could dedicate a squad or platoon into an area or to solve a problem. For example, there were more Military Police, not counting other military personnel, in Baghdad, at times by a factor of 2 or 3, than there were civilian trainers in all of Iraq. While many of the enlisted military personnel were young and inexperienced they made up for it in quantity. 

6,000 civilian trainers would have been much more effective than 20,000 - 30,000 military personnel.

21. Did these trainers have any knowledge of Iraq and the situation they were heading into? How did that affect their work?

Many of the civilian trainers (40-50%?) had previous international training experience in the Balkans, East Timor or Haiti. But almost none of them had any experience in an Arab/Muslim country. And, again, almost none had any experience in a hostile, non-permissive, combat environment. A stateside training program was developed, but it focused more on medical exams and firearms qualifications. Specific knowledge of Iraq was rare and came mostly from U.S. television or an individual's own initiative to Google it.

22. Were the Iraqis consulted about the American plans for the police?  How do you think that affected things?

At the beginning, and for quite awhile, there was no American plan, so, "No", the Iraqis were not consulted about "The Plan.” Much of the "Plan" came from individual's initiative (whether military or civilian) to adapt their prior training, education and, mostly, their experience to the Iraqi situation. A training program implemented at the Baghdad Police Academy might be totally different than programs implemented elsewhere in the country. For the first year or so, the Iraqi Police Commanders were gracious, understanding and even, sympathetic to the uncoordinated chaos in the whole reconstruction effort. By the time of the Transition to the Iraqi Interim Government in June 2004, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior was beginning to implement its own ideas of what the new police should look like.  Unfortunately, most of these new government officials had no frame-of-reference for policing in a democracy. Their only concept of policing came from Saddam-era Iraq, or their time in exile in totalitarian countries like Iran and Syria.

23. The U.S. Institute of Peace issued a report in August 2003 that said there needed to be reform in Iraq’s legal system. Did the Americans ever attempt that, and how successful were they?

At the beginning, in May 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training, sent an assessment team along with us. The Judicial Team continued in Iraq, and formed a joint Iraqi-International Regime Crimes Liaison Office to prosecute Saddam and others. The Judicial Team was hampered by a lack of properly trained, educated, and qualified Iraqi lawyers and judges. Most - nearly, all - lawyers and judges had been compromised by the Saddam regime and were complicit in the regime's excesses. Furthermore, the new government wanted to install its prosecutors and judges most of whom were equally unqualified and willing to commit its own excesses in the name of justice - or at least, in the name of revenge.

24. Robert Perito from the Institute of Peace did an interview with PBS’ Frontline that aired in Oct. 03. He said that he didn’t think the U.S. was really committed to training the police. Did you feel that way yourself?

I know Bob Perito, and admire his work. The vast majority of the individuals that I met, whether military, U.S. government employees or civilian contractors, were dedicated and committed to their missions. The most frequent refrain that I heard was, "Is this the best that the American government can do?" To that point, the U.S. government, or more correctly, the Administration at that time was not committed to the police training mission or any other aspect of the reconstruction effort.

25. The training mission was originally supposed to be a civilian affair, but was taken over by the military. Why did that happen?

Neither the State Department nor the Justice Department had the inherent resources for a mission on the scale of Iraq. Neither had the management resources to plan, organize, and coordinate such a project. Neither had the life support capability or experience, not the air or ground transportation assets or even the communications capability to communicate in-country. All of these responsibilities would have to be contracted out, as some were, through normal U.S. government contracting procedures. For better or worse, the U.S. military is able to deploy thousands of personnel and hundreds of pieces of equipment and be operational in 24-48 hours. 

26. You were deeply critical of this move, can you explain why.

The U.S. military did not, and still does not, have the capability and capacity or expertise to train, educate, and monitor a civilian, Rule-of-Law, ministerial (i.e., national) level criminal justice program. But, the military was on the ground in Baghdad early. State and Justice were not able to effectively deploy a significant number of civilian advisors and trainers for almost a year. There was a programmatic leadership vacuum, and the U.S. military does not tolerate leadership vacuums.

27. Jordan was eventually brought in to help as well. What was their role, and were they effective?

The impact of the war on Jordan was almost immediate and significant. Early in 2003, the increase in traffic to and from Jordan was dramatic. It seemed like dozens of auto-carrier trucks were coming into Baghdad from Jordan every day. The floodgates of commerce brought all kinds of modern consumer goods that had been previously banned. Particularly, electronic goods like mobile phones, satellite dishes, and computers. Traffic going into Jordan was mostly former regime officials fleeing from the Coalition, and the Shia militias. Even regular Iraqis who had been denied permission to leave Iraq were now leaving. 

The security situation in Iraq became too dangerous to conduct police recruit training in-country so Jordan was selected. Jordan became the site of a large construction project to build an International Police Training Center known as JIPTC. Thousands of Iraqi recruits were in training at this facility at any one time for a period of about four years. I believe the capacity was about 4,000 recruits at one time. Today, JIPTC is still in use training other Arab recruits. A professional quality Jordanian police training cadre has been developed over the nearly ten years JIPTC has been operational.

28. In 2004, General Petraeus took over the Iraqi training mission.  What did you think about his job?

General Petraeus was a larger than life figure during his tours in Iraq. Although he is not a trainer or educator by military specialty, he is a generalist, and an exceptional leader and manager to motivate others to perform to his expectations. Other generals, equally qualified by training, education and experience, failed in much less demanding positions.

29. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction recently issued an audit of the U.S. police training mission, and said one of the problems with the military running it was that each time a new unit rotated into Iraq they would basically start from scratch, which led to no consistency. Was that apparent while you were in Iraq?

That was a serious problem especially with the U.S. military more so than other nations. From discussions with U.S. military and civilians it appears that an Officer's Evaluation Report (OER) has a lot to do with it. Officers seem to get higher ratings if they initiate, innovate, create or otherwise show some leadership or more accurately, pseudo-leadership. This problem went right to the top of the military as each general tried to implement his ideas. This is further complicated by the aggressive, Can-Do military attitude where actions are often impulsive and not well thought out. No on in the U.S. military ever says to a superior officer, “No, we can’t do that,” even if that task is immoral, foolish, or just plain wrong.

A classic example of this was the police training in late 2003, especially police recruit training. There were less than 50 U.S. civilian police trainers in the country - most having arrived in December 2003. Recruiting standards and procedures were still being developed. Repairs had just begun at police academies around the country. The political decision had been made, ready or not, to transition governmental control to the Iraqis in June 2004, yet there was no functioning Ministry of Interior, and a barely functioning police department in Baghdad. Police academies were targets of frequent attacks, and the decision was made to train new recruits outside of Iraq in a controlled and safe environment. The decision was to build a new training center in Jordan. Construction began around October 2003, and the facility was barely functioning at a minimal capacity by January 2004. The Coalition Provisional Authority and the Department of Defense were frustrated with the slow pace of the police training program. 

The U.S. military, then under the command of Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, announced a plan to hire 30,000 new police recruits in 30 days. This plan was so impractical as to be ridiculous. It would be impossible to even forcibly round up 30,000 Iraqi men in 30 days. It would have been impossible to implement any recruitment standards at all. Even worse, there would have been no way to screen out potential insurgents and saboteurs.

Then it got even worse when they ran the number for the 30,000, the recruit training would still fall short of the military's goal. So they raised the numbers to 60,000 in 60 days! Double the foolishness.

30. Was the military the one that pushed for the creation of the paramilitary Iraqi National Police?

The Iraqi Police had always been a national force with standards, training, policy, and funding coming from the central government. But in reality there was decentralized control with provincial governors and mayors of larger cities exercising substantial local autonomy, as long as it didn't interfere with the regime's (Saddam's) plans. In one city, al-Hillah I believe, where the U.S. military appointed a new police chief, and the local mayor using his legal authority appointed a different police chief. Local officials, civic and police were reluctant to cooperate with the U.S. military beyond their local jurisdiction. The U.S. military needed a police force that it could deploy regardless of municipal or provincial boundaries.  The response was to create two new police forces along European and U.S. models.  The European model was a third force (special police) concept of an Iraqi gendarmerie or carabinieri along a more paramilitary and less civil, rule of law model. The U.S. model was an Iraqi Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol was original designed to assist U.S. military units with convoy escort duties that crossed provincial boundaries. 

Neither force fit within the Iraqi concept of policing nor within the Iraqi legal code. These two police forces would be problems for years.  Of the two, the Special Police were the worst.

31. You were very critical of that move at the time, what was the basis of your complaints?

My opposition to these two new police forces was that they were accountable only to the U.S. military, and were often counter-productive to establishing a Rule-of-Law, criminal justice system in Iraq.

32. In 2004 the insurgents and Sadrists launched several major offensives. During each one of those there were reports that the Iraqi police abandoned their posts in several cities throughout the country.  What was the reaction in Baghdad to that?

No civil, Rule-of-Law police agency anywhere is prepared for combat. The proper agency for that in the Iraqi context would have been the Iraqi Army, but we all know what Bremer did with the Army.  The Iraqi Police were not trained or equipped for combat. 

33. The response in the U.S. seemed to be that this was a sign of the failure of the U.S. to rebuild the Iraqi police. Did you agree with that?

No. Even in Northern Ireland, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was not prepared for a military counter-insurgency role. The RUC would frequently assign one or two officers to patrol with a squad or more of British soldiers. No police should be prepared for a military counter-insurgency role. The failure was not in rebuilding the Iraq Police, the failure was the decision to disband the Iraqi Army - an overt political decision.

34. What was your impression of how the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) did things?

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was an unmitigated disaster. Many of the people in the CPA came with neo-conservative political agendas. I can't tell you how many times in military, police, and security briefings I heard the phrase, "To create a free market economy,” as one of the goals. The irony was that many CPA officials would have been for small, decentralized, states rights style government back home, but were trying to build a large, strong centralized government in Iraq. Also, many of the, I don't know what else to call them, young kids in their 20s, came with recommendations from the Heritage Foundation, and other conservative organizations. Many were just out of college or were taking a gap year to have an adventure in Baghdad. Most of them would have been doing unpaid internships if it weren't for Iraq. 

35. The CPA came up with a plan to disband Iraq’s militias and integrate them into the security forces. Did you know about those? Do you have any ideas for why that plan failed? 

I think you're referring to CPA Order 91 that was issued in June 2004, just before the transition of control to the Iraqi Interim Government. Order 91 was issued on June 7, 2004, and the Transition took place on June 28, 2004. The Order appeared to be an afterthought, and a form of plausible deniability. At best, it served as guidance for the new Iraqi government, at worst, as proved the case, the new Iraqi government essentially ignored it except when it was to their internal domestic political advantage against Muqtada al-Sadr or Sunni groups.


Allbritton, Christopher, “Why Iraq’s Police Are a Menace,” Time, 5/20/06

Cordesman, Anthony, “The Current Military Situation in Iraq,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 11/14/03

Daragahi, Borzou, “Massacre feared a setup,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10/26/04

Diamond, Larry, “What Went Wrong in Iraq,” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2004

Edmonson, George, “Iraq routinely torturing prisoners, group says,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1/26/05

Elliott, Michael, “Occupation Hazards,” Time, 6/9/03

Gordon, Michael, “For Training Iraq’s Police, the Main Problem Was Time,” New York Times, 10/21/04

Hider, James, “West Turns Blind Eye As Police Put Saddam’s Torturers Back To Work,” Times of London, 7/7/05

Inskeep, Steve, “Competent Police Force is Key to Iraq Peace,” NPR, 5/9/06

Knowlton, Brian, “U.S. alleges rights abuses by Iraqis,” San Francisco Chronicle, 3/1/05

Lardner, Richard, “Roots of Iraq weapon probes date to 2004,” Associated Press, 9/27/07

Maas, Peter, “The Way of the Commandos,” New York Times Magazine, 5/1/05

Oppel, Richard and Glanz, James, “Iraqi forces wilting under relentless attacks,” San Francisco Chronicle, 11/30/04

PBS Frontline, “Interview Gen. Jay Garner,” Truth, War and Consequences, 10/9/03
- “Interview Robert Perito,” Truth, War and Consequences, 10/9/03

Pfaff, Tony, “Development And Reform Of The Iraqi Police Forces,” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army, January 2008

Pincus, Walter, “Report criticizes spending by contractor hired to train Iraqi police,” Washington Post, 1/25/10

Police Futurist, “Interview: Our Guy in Iraq,” Winter 2006-2007

Sennott, Charles, “The Good Soldier,” Men’s Journal, June 2008

Silverstein, Ken, “Jerry Burke on Iraq’s Corrupt Police Force,” Harper’s Magazine, 9/11/07

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Iraqi Security Forces: Police Training Program Developed Sizeable Force, but Capabilities Are Unknown,” 10/25/11
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Government,” 7/30/07

Tyson, Ann Scott, “U.S. Commanders Say Iraqi Police Can Be Reformed,” Washington Post, 12/11/07

United States Government Accountability Office, “DOD Cannot Ensure That U.S.-Funded Equipment Has Reached Iraqi Security Forces,” July 2007

Updike, Nancy, “I’m From the Private Sector and I’m Here to Help,” This American Life, 6/4/04

Washington Post, “U.S. changes tactics in Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, 4/24/04


amagi said...

Once again, thank you for these interviews. They prove to be as heartbreaking as they are informative.

Joel Wing said...

Thanks Amagi. Wait until you read the second half. Its going up on Monday, and is even better.

Latest Corruption Scandal In Iraq $600 Million Stolen Using Fake Foreign Travel

Al Aalem reported that tens of thousands of people were falsely registered as traveling outside of Iraq and gained access to hundreds of mi...