Monday, September 19, 2005

Total contempt for our own puppet government

Today, British coalition troops in Iraq opened an offensive in Basra. Using ten armored vehicles, backed by helicopters, they overwhelmed the opposition, destroyed their target and quickly achieved their objective.

Were they fighting insurgents then? No, they were not. They were attacking an Iraqi prison-- guarded by members of the very same police force that we have been working so hard to recruit and train. Their objective was to free two British commandos, arrested after being accused of gunning down two Iraqi policemen.

According to the article, the British and Iraqis offered different explanations.

Mohammed al-Waili, the governor of Basra province, condemned the British for raiding the prison, an act he called “barbaric, savage and irresponsible...
A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act,” al-Waili said, adding that the British force had spirited the prisoners away to an unknown location.

The British view is this:

Late Monday, a Ministry of Defense spokesman, speaking in London on condition of anonymity as is customary, said he had no information suggesting the men were freed as a result of any overt military action. But the spokesman stopped short of denying reports that British vehicles crashed through the jail walls. The ministry issued a statement saying the two Britons were back with other British troops....According to the BBC, defense officials insisted they had been talking to the Iraqi authorities to secure the release of the men, but acknowledged a wall was demolished as British forces tried to “collect” the two prisoners.

Additionally, a witness said that he watched about 150 prisoners flee the jail (did the British not care about this either, or just assume that when they knocked the wall of the jail down the rest of the inmates would just quietly sit around waiting for the guards to return?)

In other words, the British chose to ignore Iraqi 'sovereignty.' Of course, this isn't the first time this has been done. We made it clear last year, just a day after the ink was dry on the proclamation of Iraqi sovereignty, that they would know that it was just a piece of paper.

On June 29 of last year, just one day after granting Iraqi sovereignty on June 28, 2004, The coalition decided that they didn't like an Iraqi court acquitting a man on a charge of attempted murder of coalition troops, so the coalition authority rearrested him and sent him to Abu Graib for a retrial.

US prosecutors said that he was being returned to the controversial Abu Ghraib prison because under the Geneva Conventions they were not bound by Iraqi law.

Interesting that our prosecutors alluded to the Geneva convention when under the infamous Gonzalez memo of 2002, they also claim not to be bound by the Geneva convention. But, the real issue here is this:

As I said at the time, I have no problem conceptually with the coalition authority believing they have the right to try a man accused of attacking coalition troops. But, if they believe that, why did they send him to an Iraqi court in the first place? They obviously were only going to uphold the verdict if it was favorable (sort of like if you get a die roll you don't like, picking the die up for another roll). This makes it clear that they considered the Iraqi court as a puppet institution, and coming only one day after the official 'sovereignty' date, it made it clear that it was a farce.

Oddly enough, it may happen that Iraq does eventually have an independent sovereign government, but if it does, it will resemble the pre-war government of Afghanistan (if the new constitution is any guide), and it will be because we failed.


The Chaplain said...

I read the MSNBC article that you are referring to about this incident of the British attacking the Iraqi prison. The article says that the men weren't in the prison after all but that the two men had to be rescued from a nearby house. The article also says that the two men were thought to be in mortal danger due to reports of them having been handed over by the Iraqi police to a militia group. Since they were found not in the prison but in a home, I would say that the fears were at least somewhat justified.

However, I agree with you Eli that the coalition must be very careful not to overstep the boundaries of authority that the Iraqi government sets up. We must show by our actions that we respect the right of the Iraqi people to govern themselves as we do here.

This is the type of incident that needs more scrutiny. It would be good for the Iraqis themselves to fully investigate the whole affair and for the coalition to accept their judgement whatever they decide.

Eli Blake said...

Be that as it may, they did attack the prison. Also, today there have been more indicents of back and forth down there between the British and the local populace (keep in mind that Basra is supposedly the peaceful part of the country).

As to letting the Iraqi government try them and accepting the verdict, that is unlikely to happen because 1) we have already shown (the other incident I referred to) that we won't accept a verdict we don't like, and as our coalition partners it is unlikely the British would do the same, and 2) that would set a precedent which would be a radical departure from the Bush doctrine of not allowing American military to stand trial in foreign courts (and if it is the British today, then eventually it would be American troops). In fact, I somewhat support the Bush doctrine on this-- I don't support it if we are talking about a reputable foreign court (like in the Hague) but I would not feel comfortable with an American soldier standing trial in, as would be the case in Iraq, an Islamic court (i.e. if he is found guilty of theft, then they can cut off his hand? I have a problem with that).

dorsano said...

We started a civil war in Iraq because this administration couldn't tell the difference between Pashtuns, Persians, Arabs, Turkomen, and the men who attacked us.

The failure of a foreign policy based on regime change is equal only to the failure of an admistration that browers from our children to reward its friends.