Al Jazeera (AJ) has an interesting article from 12 December discussing the radicalization of moderate detainees interned at US-run prisons like Camp Bucca. Camp Bucca was long (unofficially) known as the beacon of prison radicalization by Soldiers in Iraq until it was shut down in September. If you’ve ever been to Camp Bucca you’re probably muttering under your breath right now that you’re not surprised due to the way the prison was run in the first place. For those of you who have not had the privilege of visiting the Camp, a Google Image search should satisfy your curiosity of the Camp’s emphasis on extra-curricular activities. Some of you reading this may say this is an overly critical assessment of those units responsible for guarding our detainees in Iraq. I would counter that the images in the Google search I hyperlinked are a spot-on synopsis of the overall attitude of the Camp’s guard force.
What’s most appalling is not that the radicalization happened in the first place, the same thing happens in US prisons after all, but the fact that we continue to deny that it was an endemic problem in the first place, and that these detainees continue to pose a significant risk to the security of Iraq. AJ cites a DoD statistic that only 4% of detainees returned to violent activities. Speaking within the context of my recent 15-month deployment, this number is probably way too low. An article on The Huffington Post from May of this year quotes Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi saying that many of the attacks seen in that period were conducted by recently released by U.S. forces who had rejoined "criminal gangs and terrorist groups like al-Qaida in Iraq."
It’s time for us to fess up and acknowledge the fact that while we definitely did not get our detainee operations right for many years in Iraq, the Iraqi-negotiated terms of the Status of Forces Agreement and a pathetic judicial branch will keep Iraq mired in chaos for years to come. These recidivists and recently-radicalized individuals continue to reinforce Sunni and Shi’a insurgencies alike. If you’ve made it this far, I highly recommend Pat’s recent post on the insurgency that bends but refuses to break, AQI in Mosul. I also recommend a great statistical analysis of Ninewa Province attacks from Joel Wing at The Ground Truth in Iraq.