Monday, December 25, 2006

Basra PD blues

In September 2005 the British military attacked a police station in Basra, using tanks to demolish a wall, in order to release two disguised British soldiers who had, when stopped by the local police, shot two of them. There were a lot of accusations made about the Basra police’s connections to insurgents, no explanation (well, many explanations, all contradictory) about exactly what the soldiers were doing, and that was it (I posted several times about all of this that September).

Today the British sent 1,000 troops and a bulldozer and explosives to that same police station (or “torture HQ” or even “Gestapo HQ,” as the London Times luridly phrases it – elsewhere, in full British-imperialist-condescensing-harrumph-harrumph mode, the paper says this about the 2005 events: “This time the British forces would stand for no nonsense”). They were there to hand out pink slips to the serious crimes unit of the Basra police force (you will already have noticed that “serious crimes unit” has a more ambiguous meaning in Iraq than it might have elsewhere; the British have announced that a Major Crimes Unit will be created to replace the Serious Crimes Unit, and if that doesn’t make everything all right, I don’t know what will). They claimed they were rescuing 127 prisoners in danger of less-than-judicial execution (not counting the prisoners who escaped during the operation). We will never know the whole truth about this either. Possibly this was a good thing.


Here’s what tells you that the British have no real control over events in Basra: the only way they had to prevent the police station being used again by death squads slash “rogue police,” rather than by the forthcoming Major Crimes Unit, was to blow it up. So this show of force ended with a tacit admission of weakness.

Today’s must-read: this Empire Burlesque post. Longish, but packed with goodies.

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