The Never-Ending “Last” Throes

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Seven Marines on Monday.  Fourteen marines on Tuesday.  This is insane.

Among the carnage is the sad story of Steven Vincent, a freelance journalist.  We wrote an op-ed piece which appeared in the New York Times last Sunday, entitled “Switched Off in Basra”.  It told of how the police in Basra, who are supposedly on our side, are mostly comprised of officers who remain loyal to their religious affiliations rather than the rule of law:

"Are the police being used for political purposes?” asked Jamal Khazal Makki, the head of the Basra branch of the Sunni-dominated Islamic Party. “They arrest people and hold them in custody, even though the courts order them released. Meanwhile, the police rarely detain anyone who belongs to a Shiite religious party.”

An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations – mostly of former Baath Party members – that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of “death car”: a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.

Steven Vincent, with his translator, was on his way to an ATM machine in Basra last night.  A car, clearly marked “Police”, pulled up to him.  Vincent and his translator were instructed to get into the car.  Vincent’s body was found on the side of a highway today, several bullets in his head.  His translator was seriously wounded.