Critically important reporting in

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Critically important reporting in this morning’s LA Times on what amounts to a complete collapse of U.S. efforts to establish an Iraqi civil police authority:

Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq’s police force, with abuses including the rape of female prisoners, the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings, according to confidential Iraqi government documents detailing more than 400 police corruption investigations.

Some have argued, persuasively, that any effort to create a professional and effective Iraqi police force was doomed from the earliest days of the occupation when the Pentagon failed to put enough boots on the ground, especially police and civil affairs units, to secure the peace.

Not only did the insurgency step into that power vacuum but a fearful population, including, undoubtedly, members of the police forces themselves, also turned instinctively to their religious and tribal associations for protection. That doomed the chances of establishing an impartial civil authority:

A recent assessment by State Department police training contractors underscores the investigative documents, concluding that strong paramilitary and insurgent influences within the force and endemic corruption have undermined public confidence in the government.

. . .

Police officers’ loyalties seem a major problem, with dozens of accounts of insurgent infiltration and terrorist acts committed by ministry officials.

In general, this isn’t new news, although some of the particulars are. What the piece reinforces is that any U.S. withdrawal plan that is predicated on Iraqis assuming responsibility for policing is not a plan at all but an open-ended commitment.

At best such a commitment would last years. But realistically I’m not sure there is any historical precedent for an occupying power being able to salvage a situation that is as far gone as the security situation in Iraq is.

Lacking the integrity to acknowledge a disastrous outcome and the courage to change course, the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense have made the decision to punt the problem they created to the next administration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

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