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Daily Column
US Papers Fri: UK Out of Iraq
Abu Ghraib Guards Say Memos Show They Were Scapegoats
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/01/2009 02:13 AM ET
Today, a few papers cover the end of British combat operations in Iraq. Local police are accused of lax security measures, and American guards found guilty of at Abu Ghraib say that the “torture memos” show that the buck shouldn’t have stopped with them.

The UK, Packing up
On Thursday, the UK officially ended its combat operations in Iraq, just as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, in London. They obviously don’t all leave on the same day, but the machinery is rolling to reduce the current 4,000 UK troops in Iraq to roughly one tenth of that. About 400 won’t be returning to Tipperary just yet, but will remain to help train Iraqi security forces.

Both articles which cover it, while naming significant security improvements which took place under the Brits’ watch, say the British military is leaving Iraq a bit tarnished, not least of all because of the wars’ great unpopularity at home. Blame from many in Iraq for Basra largely falling under control by militias for extended periods of time in past, plus London’s economic woes and blame make their rucksacks heavier for the ride home.

Kevin Sullivan of the Washington Post files from the city on the Thames.
The withdrawal of combat troops is unlikely to end debate about Iraq in Britain. David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, immediately called for a full-scale inquiry into Britain's role in the war, similar to the government investigation that followed the Falklands War in 1982.
It's been a long and hard campaign. There's been no question about that, and we've paid a very high price," Defense Secretary John Hutton said. "But I think when the history is written of this campaign, they will say of the British military: 'We did a superb job.' "
Majid al-Sari, a local politician, said Basra residents will forever be grateful for the role British troops played in ousting Saddam Hussein and for their investment in reconstruction projects. "But they leave behind more failures than successes," he said. "They let the militias control Basra -- that happened while they were watching."
For the Wall Street Journal, Alistair MacDonald in London and Charles Levinson in Baghdad give a bigger picture view of British defense, instead of making the article about just what has led up to the troops’ departure.
The U.K. military -- with a centuries-old reputation as a powerful fighting force -- has been severely cut in recent years, reflecting the country's diminished role in global affairs since World War II. Despite the cuts, London has made heavy demands on the military, which has fought alongside the U.S. in global hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

...Facing a dour economy and staggering government debt, the U.K. is widely expected to shrink its military power further still, despite criticism at home that the forces are so poorly funded they're ill-equipped for the roles they're asked to play. Such cuts are sapping strength from U.S.-backed military efforts in places like Afghanistan. The U.K. government says it remains committed to the military -- still one of the world's largest -- but wants armed forces tooled to fight modern conflicts, such as countering terrorist activities in failed states, rather than large-scale battles.
From Baghdad
USA Today’s Paul Wiseman writes that, in the aftermath of recent bombings in Baghdad, many police are being accused of providing ineffective security. He focuses on Sadr City, where twin bombings killed over 50 people on Friday.

The article is mostly small quotes from Sadr City residents, with paragraphs of analysis or explanation in between, and it gets the point across.
"They are not doing their duty," said Muhammad Hassan, 28, who manages his family's men's clothing store in Sadr City. "They are kind of relaxed and lazy, not tense like they were before."

Hamid al-Mualla, an Iraqi member of parliament, agreed. "Security forces start to feel too comfortable and don't do their jobs," he said. "They keep believing security has improved."

"People's psychology had changed," said Sadr City pharmacist Karim Jabr, 50. "We thought it was the end of violence."
The now-common scene of post-explosion anger directed towards Iraqi security forces demonstrates an expectation of safety on the part of many Iraqis that hadn’t been there during the worst of the sectarian violence.

If we search every car, we cause a traffic jam and people complain," said Abu Noor, a policeman at a checkpoint in Sadr City. "If we don't search, there's an explosion."

Stateside
Josh White of the Washington Post writes the strongest piece of writing today, about one effect of the release of the “torture memos” – soldiers prosecuted for detainee abuse after the Abu Ghraib scandal (not to mention their lawyers) say that the portrayal of them as “a few bad apples” holds less water now.
It is unclear whether low-level soldiers who were convicted of crimes can retrospectively use the Justice Department memos to their advantage. Gary Myers, a New Hampshire lawyer who represented Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick on abuse charges, said that unless the soldiers knew about the policies specifically, the memos might be irrelevant in a courtroom. Still, Myers said he is going to use the recent developments to try to get Frederick's dishonorable discharge removed from his record.
Says Janis L. Karpinski, former Army Reserve general in charge of prisons in Iraq who was demoted and left the Army as a result of the Abu Ghraib scandal, "I always had a sense of betrayal because it's just disgusting. I'm sure those photos scared the hell out of them," she added, referring to Bush administration officials. "Here, in living color, you have a photographic rendition of your memos. Is that what they wanted it to look like? Guess what, that is what it looks like."

New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, no Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at ds@iraqslogger.com


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