As a Result of Abu Ghraib…

Some interesting and disturbing facts in a column by Bing West and Eliot Cohen in the Wall Street Journal:

To change the dynamic in Iraq, the president has to insist on arrests and incarceration rates equivalent or greater than those for violent crime in New York City. This would set benchmarks and shift our forces from defense to offense. New York City averages over 27,000 arrests a year for violent crimes. If a similar number of arrests were made in Baghdad, which is roughly the same population size as New York City, the jail population in Iraq would double in a year. One in 75 American males is in jail, compared to one in 450 Iraqi males. Iraq is not six times safer than the U.S. Instead, Iraq has a judicial system, abetted by American military legalisms, that works in favor of the killers. The president has to change that.

Our troops in Iraq complain, with justice, that they often capture insurgents, only to find them on the street a few months later. As a result of the abuses of Abu Ghraib, the U.S. military instituted four layers of review for each Iraqi detained. The result is that most detainees are released. As for the Iraqi system, it is simply absurd, insisting on habeas corpus rules of evidence in a corrupt and overwhelmed judicial system that incarcerates a few dozen each week, compared to over a thousand a week in New York City alone. Eight of 10 detainees are set free. Releasing killers undercuts troop morale, while the residents lose trust. Texas has 170,000 in jail; Iraq, with a larger population and 50 times the violence rate, has 28,000 in jail. This “catch and release system,” as the troops call it, is the single weakest link in the U.S. strategy.

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