Iraqi Death Squads

Liz Sly, foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, did frightening piece on Death Squads currently operating within the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.

BAGHDAD -- The U.S. military has stumbled across the first evidence of a death squad within Iraq's Interior Ministry after the detention last month of 22 men wearing police commando uniforms who were about to shoot a Sunni man, according to the American general overseeing the training of Iraqi police.

The men turned out not to be police commandos but were employed by the Ministry of Interior as highway patrolmen, according to Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, who commands the civilian police training teams in Iraq.

"We have found one of the death squads," he said. "They are a part of the police force of Iraq."

Allegations that death squads targeting Sunnis are operating within the Shiite-dominated police forces have been circulating since last May, when the bodies of Sunnis detained by men wearing police uniforms began turning up in garbage dumps and waste ground around Baghdad. Most of the victims had been tortured, and many were shot execution-style.

The killings started after the current Shiite-led government took office and appointed a new interior minister, Bayan Jabr, a leading official in the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, fueling suspicions that the ministry's forces were waging a sectarian campaign against Sunnis.

Thousands of Sunnis have since been rounded up by Interior Ministry forces as part of a crackdown against the Sunni-dominated insurgency, according to ministry figures. Sunni political organizations say 1,600 of those detained by men wearing police uniforms have subsequently turned up dead.

The more you learn about what actually going on in Iraq, the less faith you have that Iarq can remain viable as one united nation or becoming a satellite to Iran. Both of those outcomes, Iranian satellite or a Balkanized three nation conglomerate divide along ethnic lines, is bad for Iraq, bad for the Mid-East, and bad for the United States.

Neither option will be Bush's 'shining example of democracy' in the region. The three nation solution would probably result in (or be the result of) a civil war. That type of conflict in the center of an unstable region is bound to draw support and opposition of warring groups by outside nations, increasing instability for the region as a whole. If Iraq becomes a sub-state of Iran, the balance of power in the region is wildly shifted toward Tehran at exactly the time the world as a whole is trying to stop Iran's drive towards nuclear weapons.

Those are all long term problems.

The short term problems with Death Squad activity are just as bad. Not knowing if you or your employees are going to be alive enough to come to work tomorrow doesn't encourage entrepreneurs to invest. It certainly doesn't encourage outside investors to put money into Iraq. Being killed for your politics and/or ethnicity doesn't encourage democracy. Death Squads certainly don't make improvements in infastructure, provide useful goods or services, or decrease lawlessness.
The discovery of the death squad came about almost by chance, when an Iraqi army checkpoint in northern Baghdad stopped the men in late January and asked what they were doing. They responded truthfully, telling the soldiers that they were taking the Sunni man away to be shot dead.

"The amazing thing is ... they tell you exactly what they're going to do," Peterson said.


Militia infiltration has become a top concern of the U.S. military as it seeks to speed up the transfer of authority to Iraqi security forces so American troops can start to withdraw. In some parts of the country, members of the Badr Organization, the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada Sadr, openly operate alongside or within the police forces.

Though militia members have been encouraged to join the police and the army, as part of a plan to dismantle militias initiated by the former U.S. administration in Iraq, their presence raises questions about the future loyalties of the security forces.

"It's an issue of loyalties, of allegiance," Peterson said. "If you're still wearing your Badr T-shirt under your uniform, that's a problem."

So we're committed to fighting the insurgency but the insurgents are now members of the Iraqi government and their militias are now parts of the police force. This is nothing like Vietnam. This is worse.

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