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Yesterday General David Petraeus spoke before Congress. “Iraq’s armed forces are improving,” the Washington Post said in summarizing Petraeus’s remarks. “Overall violence is down. Sunnis are turning against Al Qaeda in Iraq, and many Baghdad neighborhoods are more peaceful.” Petraeus said there were 445,000 individuals employed by the Interior and Defense ministries, a figure he expected to grow by as much as 40,000 by the end of the year.
So it would seem things are looking up. But it’s not so, according to Jerry Burke, a retired major in the Massachusetts state police who served for two years as a senior advisor on police affairs to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. Burke, who is also a former director of the New England Institute of Law Enforcement Management, served two terms in Iraq; his most recent assignment ended in March 2006.
Burke takes a dim view of the Iraqi army and of the National Police commanded by the Minister of the Interior. In planning for 2006, he told me, U.S. officials assumed a daily KIA—“killed in action”–of 10 Iraqi policemen. It was further assumed that 15 police per day would be injured so seriously that they would be forced out of service. Burke says Petraeus is partly responsible for the situation. Here’s what he told me:
After nearly four years of training, the Iraqi Army should be much more capable and prepared. Instead it is riddled with cronyism and corruption. There are large numbers of ghost employees. When the ‘surge’ began the U.S. asked for support in Baghdad from a number of Army units. It turned out those units had a lot more personnel on paper than in reality. Payrolls are padded and officials within the ministry skim off the extra money allocated to pay and equip ghost employees.
Within the Ministry of Interior there are two large Police Services. One is the Iraqi Police Service (IPS)–traditional street cops. I still hold out some hope for this force. The other is known as the National Police. It has been created, trained, and advised solely by the U.S. military and is supposed to be a counterterrorism force.
Many of its members were recruited directly from Shiite militia groups like the Badr Brigade. It was formerly called the Special Police, but the name was changed because the group was associated with human rights abuses. The National Police is not salvageable. It should be disbanded and many of its members should be prosecuted for criminal human rights violations, war crimes, and death squad activities.
A lot of the problems with the National Police are due to poor training. There is no vetting or pre-employment screening and recruits only get eight weeks police training. There is no emphasis on refresher training for any of the police, as there is in the United States, and there is almost no supervisory or management training.
Petraeus bears some responsibility for this state of affairs. He was commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command in 2004 and 2005. That organization was responsible for training the army and police services. That was also the time the National Police was created and expanded. He should be well aware of problems surrounding the various security forces, but he’s in a hard position to be critical because he was instrumental in the training programs.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Commentary — November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm
The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Average number of Americans who are injured by chain saws each year:
A farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”