Return of Secret Police in Iraq?

A raid last night on a Shiite militia-run detention center highlights what appears to be a major problem in Iraq: abusive practices by local warlords acting with quasi-governmental sanction.

U.S.-Iraq Troops Raid Government Jail Where Abuses Are Alleged (LAT)

About 100 U.S. and Iraqi troops raided an Interior Ministry administrative and detention facility Sunday night, at least in part to check on the welfare of prisoners held inside. “We’re assisting any possible injured inside, checking their medical condition,” said Capt. John Aguello with the U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. “We’re verifying their paperwork.” An Iraqi police source said the soldiers entered the low-slung bunker and ordered police officers stationed there to disperse.

The ministry compound was a center for police officers affiliated with the Badr Brigade, a Shiite Muslim militia, according to an Iraqi politician who lives nearby and to the police source, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. Falah Nakib, the politician, said police guards at the site told U.S. soldiers that there were only 40 prisoners there but that military personnel told him they found approximately four times that number. Nakib, a member of parliament and former interior minister who maintains contacts with the police forces, said he was aware of cases in which Iraqi police had abused detainees.

In an interview Saturday, U.S. military spokesman Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said that American and Iraqi officials were investigating all charges of police abuse. U.S. officials have increasingly expressed concerns in recent weeks about Shiite militia presence in the Iraqi police force and persistent allegations of abuses and suspicious deaths. U.S. officials have also alleged that Sunni Muslim insurgent elements are working within the police force, though in smaller numbers.

Scores of bodies have been discovered in Baghdad and elsewhere around Iraq, handcuffed, blindfolded and shot through the head. Relatives of the dead often say that the last time they saw their loved ones, they were being led away by Iraqi police officers.

While I don’t expect Iraq to turn into Denmark overnight, this is quite disturbing. Allowing local militias, led by corrupt and barbaric men, to run the security apparatus at the local level is akin to the situation in Somalia in the 1990s. And the fear of the police coming in at night and disappearing people harkens back to Saddam’s evil regime.

One hopes last night’s raid is a beginning of a sustained effort to turn this around, rather than a one-time event.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. RA says:

    Thank you ACLU wimp. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The sooner the Iraqis start taking these terrorists into the back room and pounding the crap out of them, the sooner they will be able to rid themselves of the cowardly bombers.

    Its poeple like you who empower and strengthen these murderous bombers. To help you through your weakness, don’t think of these animals as terrorist, think of them as radical pro-lifers and christians. Then you should be able to muster enough courage to go after them.

  2. exdem13 says:

    As I see it, this is just another one of the problems associated in restoring civil government to Iraq. Warlordism and regional strongmen masquerading as legitimate officials have to be slapped down when they become dangerour to the public weal. Private armies aren’t good for the country, either. Wonder if the Shi’ite militia problems aren’t related to the recent stories of the IRG infiltrating through the Basra region?

    Of course, what the Liberal Always Times and other MSM news sources won’t tell you is that when Saddam was in charge, those sorts of things always happened. The difference was that they were carried out by Saddam’s regieme, with his approval and planning. Such is the legacy of power & authority that we have set ourselves to changing….

  3. jane says:

    Saddam is not a baseline for our behavior or the behavior of the governments we help install. The claim that “liberals” ignored Saddams abuses is in many cases false. Human Rights Watch documented his gassing of Kurds when our government still claimed it was Iranians.

    This kind of problem has been reported for a while. Reports of “arrested” Sunnis who appeared to have been torturd before executed briefly made it to the papers last summer. There are hundreds of dead monthly just in the Baghdad area who don’t make the news. The cause seems to be criminality, gangs, vendetttas, political disputes and the inexplainable.

    Southern Iraq seems to have been handed over to the Shiite militias. Many of these have strong ties with Iran. Reporting before he was murdered in Basra *conservative* journalist Steve Vincent claimed a hundred plus murders alone by that cities Shiite militias. Militias who had infiltrated the security forces.

    This is a crucial issue and to the extent possible we should try to stop it. A shiite terrorist regime will make this whole venture futile.