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Tell me again . . . Which Ones are the Enemy?

 abu ghraib

While the President considers how best to sell the country on escalating the Iraq war, and Democrats like Joe Biden try to figure out how to counter that strategy, it would be nice if someone could identify the good guys from the bad guys. Who, exactly, is our enemy? Lately, it's becoming a little confusing.

On Monday, British troops raided an Iraqi jail in Basra (mostly Shi'ite) run by an Iraqi police unit aptly called the "Serious Crimes Unit." The purpose was to rescue the prisoners from conditions far worse than those reported at Abu Ghraib. A British Major who witnessed the liberation and subsequent destruction of the jail described inmates with crushed hands and feet, burn marks from cigarettes and electrocution and worse, and living conditions that literally packed 100 inmates into a small cell with minimal sanitation. All that was reported Monday in British and US papers, and linked in a post by Christy. The MSNBC version is here. But there's more.

A new British report in The Guardian indicates that just before the raid, the British troops were still uncertain who among the police were the enemy from whom the prisoners were to be liberated.

No doubt we should rejoice that al-Jamiat police station in Basra has been destroyed and its prisoners taken to the relative security of a compound in which detainees are hopefully not routinely tortured. But if a sick satire on an obscure television channel included a sketch about British troops attacking a unit of the police that they established and with whom they had been theoretically working for nearly four years, the outcry would not have been limited to complaints about undermining the morale of our troops under fire. We would have been told that the whole idea was too fantastical to sustain the lampoon.

But that is what really happened on Monday. . .

According to the official statement, the army had "clear directions" from Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, and Muhammad al-Waeli, Basra's governor, to "dissolve the unit". That, at least, is a relief. But what about General Muhammad al-Musawi, Basra's chief of police? He was reported to be "furious" at what he described as "an attempt to stir up trouble." . . . The place is unmanageable in part because nobody can be sure who is on whose side. The confusion of loyalties highlights the cause of the continuing horror.

We find the same confusion surrounding US/Iraqi efforts to form a new "moderate" coalition of Shi'ite, Sunni, and Kurdish parties. In another story reported Tuesday, the US seized and arrested several Iranian officials, some of whom were subsequently released because (1) they had been invited by members of the Iraqi government, and (2) they had diplomatic immunity. Their military aides are still being held on suspicion of planning attacks inside Iraq. But the interesting fact is where they were arrested:

[T]he more significant raid occurred before dawn the next morning, when American forces raided a second location, the general said. The military described it as “a site in Baghdad,” but declined to release further details about the location.

Iraqi leaders said last week that the site was the compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite political leaders, who met with President Bush in Washington three weeks ago. A spokesman for Mr. Hakim said he had not heard of a raid on the compound.

A careful reading of General Caldwell’s statement makes it clear, however, that the location itself was of central importance. The military gathered “specific intelligence from highly credible sources that linked individuals and locations with criminal activities,” it said. The crimes were against Iraqi civilians, security forces and Americans.

So let's get this straight. US forces claim the visiting Iranians were plotting with Iraqis to carry out attacks on other Iraqis and US forces. And without the consent of the Iraqi government we captured and arrested the Iranians inside the compound of Mr. al-Hakim.

You'll recall this is the same al-Hakim whom President Bush met in Washington only two weeks ago. He's the same al-Hakim whose SCIRI party is the principal Shi'ite player in forming the "moderate" coalition the Bush Administration wants to save the Iraq government and allow the US to focus it's hostilities on al-Sadr (who actually supports the al-Maliki national government) and his Mehdi Army (with whom our forces keep skirmishing).

It appears we have no idea what we’re doing, and can’t explain who the enemies are, or why.

Thanks to TRex for adding the picture from Abu Ghraib.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

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