Washington, D.C. – Following statements by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Congress about the mission, progress and future of American forces in Iraq, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., made the following comments. Enzi also highlighted his recent trip to Iraq.
"I appreciated the report from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. They know the future stability and security of Iraq will ultimately be up to the Iraqi people, but our troops are giving them their chance for freedom and peace. They are also giving America a better chance. Our troops are over there defending our country from a brutal enemy. They are finding al Qaeda in large numbers in Iraq,” said Enzi. “I’ve been to Iraq since the war began, most recently last month, and I have seen the progress our troops are making, the hope in the Iraqi people and also the work that is left to do by their troops and their political leaders. There is a very thin line between helping and helping too much. Under the leadership of General Petraeus our forces are on the right side of that line. Iraq’s progress is our progress and al Qaeda’s loss.”
“The Basra operation was under way near the Bucca detention center I visited. That operation was initiated by the Iraqi prime minister. We have been hoping their government would take the initiative - they did. They still need help but it is an important start,” said Enzi.
Trip to Iraq
Enzi spent time in Iraq at the end of March during a congressional work period. He traveled thousands of miles to and through Iraq, Africa and the Middle East where he also met with Wyoming residents and world leaders.
Senator Enzi kept an informal journal during his overseas trip where he tells of visiting detention centers in Baghdad and outside of Basra, meeting with Wyoming soldiers and more. Excerpts from his Iraq trip journal are below.
“We learned about the very important decision each soldier has to make - to kill or to detain. The U.S. soldiers have the restraint to detain and because of that preference there are very large detention centers to sort through the detainees to keep the bad guys separate and out of circulation, to release those who are not a threat and to work with and train those in between. General Stone, the head of the detainee operations in Iraq, is going one step further and actually helping detainees gain skills before they go back out.”
“Illiteracy is a huge problem in the area and the detention centers can teach a person in 3 weeks to read at a 3rd grade reading level. Copies of the Koran are given to them and when they can read they can check the references to the common myths radicals use and can decide for themselves.”
“In the Camp Bucca Detention Center I got to see Iraq’s and perhaps the Middle East’s most attended school. 6,000 adult student detainees voluntarily attend school.”
Senator Enzi's Iraq Trip Journal
Baghdad - Detention Center
The Wyoming Air Guard (the unit I was part of for six years) flew the group of senators from Jordan to Baghdad where we visited the Camp Cropper Detention Center and learned how it is operated. General Stone, the head of detainee operations in Iraq, briefed us about the 23,000 detainees in the center, 240 of which are from out of the country.
We learned about the very important decision each soldier has to make - to kill or to detain. The U.S. soldiers have the restraint to detain and because of that preference there are very large detention centers to sort through the detainees to keep the bad guys separate and out of circulation, to release those who are not a threat and to work with and train those in between. General Stone is going one step further and actually helping detainees gain skills before they go back out. Detention centers could become jihadist universities if not organized properly. Camp Cropper Detention Center has released 6,000 detainees under General Stone and only 13 have been sent back. The center is taking in a thousand detainees a month and releasing a thousand a month. Media is invited to show up to talk to the detainees upon release to confirm there is no torture in the detention center. When detainees first come in to the center the soldiers can't trust anything they say about themselves - but they will speak truthfully about others. It is important to separate the radicals quickly and there are ways to go about that. Many have been offered $300 to $500 to give information about an IED explosion and they will get $1000 bonus if the explosion was filmed. The unemployment rate is so high this incentive is very appealing.
Sometimes a person is intimidated about terrorist threatening to kill a family member unless they fight. Some are "non-volunteer" suicide bombers. Most are tired of fighting and intimidation - they are not ideology committed - they only have a local interest. (90% are glad to be out of the fight). They are afraid of an Iran occupation post the U.S. presence. Many have been shown a seven minute recruiting film of the pictures of abuse at Abu Graib. General Stone thinks the individuals putting out those kind of pictures are aiding and abetting the enemy by giving foreign fighters tools. With the detention center system many detainees become assets and tell where weapons and bombs are expected to be.
Detainees gave information for 422 further arrests, 1,181 cell phones were captured providing 47,000 phone numbers that led to another 355 captured.
Terrorists use over 50 mis-teachings of the Koran to help recruit members. In the detention center they work to get detainees to read the actual writings of the Koran and make up their own minds. They have Imams who visit with them. Illiteracy is a huge problem in the area and the detention centers can teach a person in 3 weeks to read at a 3rd grade reading level. Copies of the Koran are given to them and when they can read they can check the references to the common myths radicals use and can decide for themselves. In 4 weeks the detention center can teach someone to read at a 6th grade level. Most professionals (doctors, engineers) and the literate population fled Iraq and those who are left struggle with reading. Those remaining are 60% illiterate. Jobs are important. The detention center is bridging this gap.
One non-volunteer bomber who was detained and whose life was saved by prompt medical treatment and the detention center process now spends his days talking to Saudi students about Al-Qaeda so they won't get taken in. Success is having a released detainee help find IEDs and stem further recruitment! The Red Cross inspects and talks to detainees every week as well.
The detention process is like this:
2. Go before a magistrate
3. Interview - by Iraqis so they have the same value/culture system (no one is alone with the prisoner to assure no abuse)
4. They can confront their arrester and hear non-court grounds (beyond magistrate evidence)
5. Every six months they get a rehearing
6. They are offered a work program to learn a trade and are paid $1.20 an hour up to four hours a day - money can be given to family during visit or collected on release (its increased family visits ten times - a visit allowed once every three weeks with 5 min of physical contact and an hour visiting) 7. All are offered a Koran at any time. Imams are available for religious discussions
8. Transition out - given western or Muslim clothes (their choice) and all possessions except weapons
9. Sign a pledge and guarantee signed before a judge using a fingerprint
11. Post release visits for more information. When they leave they understand the U.S. intentions in Iraq.
Baghdad - Palace
After the Detention Center we visited the palace where command operates now. It was the palace of Sadam Hussein. The U.S. military blew the top off of it but it has been repaired. General Austin briefed us on the troop surge and how it is working. Earlier this year Prime Minister Malecki asked the U.S. for help in Basra. We told him it was in the works in the next six to nine months. He took the initiative - something we’ve been looking for from him - and sent Iraqi forces into the area independent of U.S. forces. He initiated the action with his troops and our troops helped out only with technical support. He saw this move as the key to future peace and took action with the newly trained Iraqi forces. He predicted it would bring Sadr to the table. It now appears to have done that in two short weeks of fighting. This is the kind of initiative that shows the Iraqi government is moving forward, learning from our troops and then taking action.
Kuwait - Detention Center
From Baghdad we flew to Kuwait and then took a helicopter to the Camp Bucca Detention Center near Basra. They provide heated and air conditioned quarters with three meals a day and family visitations for detainees. The detention center is also the largest school in the area.
In the Camp Bucca Detention Center I got to see Iraq’s and perhaps the Middle East’s most attended school. 6,000 adult student detainees voluntarily attend school. Similar to the Camp Cropper Detention Center in Baghdad, literacy classes are available. In six weeks they get a first through third grade education. In the following 12 weeks they get a fourth through sixth grade education. Simultaneously they can learn a trade and make $1.20 an hour while in prison. With the high unemployment rate, largely caused by a lack of training and illiteracy, the families recognize an advantage to having a family member in the system. There is an interview (not interrogation) process that gets background on the detainees to initially segregate the bad actors from the majority. There is enough confidence in the program that detainees now report on those threatening and they are moved to another compound. As a result all are safer and more willing to help. When they are released they and their families are allies. There is a direct relation between their program and a decrease in attacks. General Stone was interviewed by a reporter hired by the New York Times magazine. He spent a month at the two prisons interviewing prisoners, guards, officers and wrote an article that was turned down for publication with the reason given that it was “too positive."