CAMP BUCCA : POLICY and PRACTICE
“What Camp Bucca and other military facilities ended
up being were luxury radicalisation centres...”
– ALI KHEDERY
Built at the start of the occupation, Camp Bucca’s first detainees came from the notorious
Abu Ghraib prison. The US military held up Camp Bucca as an example of how a model
detention facility should be run.
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CAMP BUCCA IDEOLOGY
Detainees were offered comprehensive healthcare and could undertake classes in subjects
like literacy and religion. The opportunity to listen to radio and TV programmes were used as incentives for good behaviour. Some detainees were also allowed family visitation from
relatives not held at the facility.
But the US policy of indiscriminately rounding up large swaths of Sunni men, brought ordinary Iraqi civilians together with radicalised individuals. It allowed for those radicalised elements to promote and recruit for the insurgency.
The Americans by that point had reached a thinking - ‘We came here as liberators and now we’re occupiers. How do we trust anyone here? So we wanna get them all together, we want to sequentially vet them and decide who’s against us and who we can work with.’ That was the intention but the effect was something completely to the opposite. There were large numbers of people who weren’t against them in the first place when they went into Bucca who were very much against them when they were released.”
– MARTIN CHULOV
On September 17, 2009 Camp Bucca closed down with thousands of prisoners released back into their towns and villages. More than 100,000 detainees had reportedly passed through Camp Bucca.
While the insurgency regrouped under the glare of Camp Bucca; across the border in Syria,
the fate of two nations was being forged away from prying eyes.
“There were indications that there were secret meetings between the Assad regime, former Iraq Baathi officers and then individuals, jihadists who would one day rise to head ISIL.” - ALI KHEDERY
President Bashar al-Assad’s alliance with jihadists, was all about short-term security
at a time of heightened paranoia. For the jihadists too, Assad and the Baathists were simply a means to an end.
I went and met President Assad twice. And presented him with material evidence, documents, satellite pictures, confession, all sort of evidence that his security forces were involved in actively in transporting Jihadists from Syria to Iraq. And also, there were training camps with names and locations. He was in total denial of that. I remember telling him that this will in no time, it will backfire on Syria.” – MOWAFFAK AL RUBAIE
The alliance between Baathists and jihadists conspired in secret, while insurgents plotted
A troubling perfect storm had been brewing since the US invasion of Iraq, but by 2009, the worst of the turbulence had supposedly been weathered. The Sunni insurgency was considered beaten.
The newly created Islamic State of Iraq was given a breather.
THE RISE OF ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI
The August 2009 Baghdad ministry bombings proved that the US troop surge and so-called ‘Awakening’ of Sunni tribes, hadn’t stopped the Islamic State of Iraq from striking at the
heart of Iraqi power.
In the deadliest attack in Iraq since 2007, two suicide car bombs targeted the Ministry of Justice and the Baghdad Provincial Council building. 115 people were killed and at least 721 injured.
In April 2010, the incumbent leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi were killed by a joint operation between the US and Iraqi forces.
It wasn’t long before a new leader emerged to head the Sunni insurgence - a man
the Americans knew all about.
“Baghdadi was somebody that the Americans
thought that they could work with.” - MARTIN CHULOV
Arrested in Fallujah by US forces in February 2004, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was detained at the
US-run Camp Bucca prison as part of the mass internment programme.
Baghdadi’s links to Sunni insurgent groups were known to the Americans, but what they discovered, was just how useful he could be to them.
Baghdadi was somebody that the Americans thought that they could work with. They had this combustible environment of people who hated them. So imagine a situation where a figure with clerical authority can come to them and say, 'Well, no. I can sort this out for you. Just leave it with me.' That took a massive burden off their hands.” – MARTIN CHULOV
The man who had been brought to Camp Bucca as a known insurgent, played the part of peacemaker. It was enough to convince the US authorities, that he no longer posed a threat.
In the six years after his release, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State of Iraq, continued with
a campaign of sporadic, but deadly bomb attacks.
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