Friday, May 16, 2008

Iraqi Freedom or Amerikan Prison?

As we’ve watched the American approach to creating government in Iraq, it has been hard to miss the fact that what is being created there for Iraqi citizens is in some ways superior to the Amerikan system. The most notable difference is that one of the goals BushCo has established for Iraq is the implementation of a national health care system.

Today, however, another change emerged in, amazingly enough, the prison system. It started off in typical Amerikan fashion – just arrest anybody who looks like trouble. The twist in the early days was tougher on detainees in that no system existed for their release. Anyone caught up in an Amerikan dragnet that identified him as a terrorist could forget freedom. He was basically given a life sentence just for being arrested – no bail, no trial, no sentencing, no parole, and no release were available. Most likely it also included some punishments beyond just being locked up, but sans pictures like those from Abu Ghraib who’s to know!??

But now comes word that an officer in command of an Amerikan prison has actually taken an analytic view of the situation and concluded that as many as two thirds of the imprisoned population at Amerika’s Camp Cropper are not true terrorists, but rather young people whose economic position (created by the war) made it impossible for them to survive without accepting the pay that insurgents or Al Qaida in Iraq offered. Major General Doug Stone who was in charge of both Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca, detention centers which he realized had become insurgent training grounds.

What would you expect? Let’s see, take young men suspected of links with terrorist organizations off the streets where their poverty has forced them into those associations, mix them with an imprisoned population of more insurgents, lock them up and throw away the key until some unknown future day on which they are supposed to emerge as friendly citizens of the state. It’s the same formula for imprisonment that we use in Amerika – take young people off the streets where they have no apparent way to earn a decent living other than drug pushing, lock them up and throw away the key and expect that when we finally open the door and throw them back on the streets, they will have been reformed and will be sterling citizens from that day forward.

Well, Major General Stone was able to see the flaws in this approach. Just as we lock up the kids who have enough brains and incentives to be successful in their drug business instead of giving them other outlets for their brainpower here in Amerika,, the military was locking up Iraqis with enough moxie to find a way to make a living in a country that offered no good avenues.

He also realized that those who called his prison (oops – detention) camps “Al Qaida University” were right. (Would that our state and federal governments would recognize that the same is true of Amerikan prisons here at home.)

Using a level of common sense not found in most Amerikan officials, General Stone acted to correct the situation because he realized that just warehousing people led nowhere but into a downward spiral where hard-line prisoners ended up with all the power inside the prison (Which is what has happened within our prison system.), and that eventually there would be 50,000 angry warehoused prisoners with no future other than bomb building.

Stone’s response was to create a system of parole. In his words, he saw that if moderate people were detained indefinitely they would come to the conclusion that, “You’re not here to better the population, you’re here to conquer us, and you’re taking me hostage.”

So he separated the hard-liners from the moderates then set up classes in civics and the Koran, welding and woodworking. He also set up a three member parole panel to hear the case of each detainee and determine whether or not he posed a serious threat to security. “It’s judgement that got them into detention,” he says, “and it’s judgement that has to get them out.”

Is that a 180 degree turn from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay or what?

Stone has not had an easy row to hoe with this approach. Just like legislators and citizens here in Amerika - his fellow officers have been very reluctant to accept his ideas, but the proof is in the pudding, and the young people his centers release are going back home and participating in the rebuilding of their country rather than contributing to its destruction.

It is the application of the milk of human kindness in combination with some common sense but it ain’t the Amerikan way. Will General Stone win out or will Rumsfeldian rule take the day? For more information to help you form you own opinion, go to and hear the whole story.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

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