In late July when I visited a police station in the town of Mushadah just north of Baghdad, I worried that Iraq was doomed to become the next Gaza. As many as half the police officers, according to most of the American Military Police who worked as their trainers, were Al Qaeda sympathizers or agents. The rest were corrupt, lazy cowards, according to every American I talked to but one.
No one tried to spin Mushadah into a success story. By itself this doesn't mean the country is doomed. How important is Mushadah anyway? I hadn't even heard of it until the day before I went there myself. But Military Police Capt. Maryanne Naro dismayingly told me the quality of the police and their station was “average.” That means one of two things. Either Mushadah is more or less typical, or roughly half the Iraqi Police force is worse.
I had a much better experience when I embedded, so to speak, with the Iraqi police in Kirkuk. I trusted the Iraqi police in that city enough that I was willing to travel with them without any protection from the American military, even though Kirkuk is still a part of the Red Zone.
In Kirkuk the police are Kurds. The Kurds of Iraq are the most pro-American people I have ever met in the world. They are more pro-American than Americans. There is no Kurdish insurgency, and the only Kurdish terrorist group — Ansar Al Islam, which recently changed its name to Al Qaeda in Kurdistan — is based now outside a town called Mariwan in northeastern Iran.
The Iraqi Police in Kirkuk may be corrupt, but they aren't terrorists or insurgents. The Kurds have problems of their own, even so, and not every Arab region of Iraq is the same shade of dysfunctional.
Every complaint I heard about the Iraqi army and Iraqi police in and around Baghdad was balanced with genuine praise for the units in and just outside Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, which until recently was the most violent war-torn place in all of Iraq. If these Iraqis were typical — and make no mistake, they are not — the American military might have little reason to stay.
Capt. Dennison and his men took me to the Al Majed station just outside the city on the banks of the Euphrates River.
“They recently changed the name,” he said as we parked the Humvees outside. “The station used to have a tribal name, but they're trying to move away from that now.”
The Al Majed station is so much cleaner than the one in Mushadah, I could hardly believe what I was looking at.
Order and tidiness aren't everything, but police officers who live and work in a sloppy dump of a station don't inspire much confidence. If they can't clean up their own space, how can they be expected to clean up a neighborhood infested with terrorists, insurgents and criminals? They can't, at least not in Mushadah, especially because as many as half the police themselves are terrorists, insurgents and criminals.
The Al Majed station wasn't as clean and orderly as a hotel, but it was at least as clean and orderly as a hostel. I would have been perfectly comfortable staying there for a week. The station in Mushadah was a nasty place I couldn't wait to get out of. Even some of the American outposts in Ramadi were disgusting.
Iraqi Lt. Col. Jumaa Abdul Rahman, the man in charge of Al Majed, invited me, Dennison, Sgt. 1st Class Kitts and 1st Sgt. Rodriguez into his office for tea. He sat behind his desk, and the four of us sat on couches that circled the room. A young boy brought us dark brown tea with sugar in small plastic cups.
As usual in the Middle East, the greeting ritual was considerate and elaborate. Hello. Welcome. How are you? Fine, I hope. Did you sleep well last night?
“Our success in this region is because of you,” Dennison said to Rahman. His statement was completely sincere. He was not being perfunctory or merely polite.
Click here to read the full report.Michael J. Totten is an independent journalist reporting on the war in Iraq. Here is a portion of his latest journal entry provided exclusively for FOXNews.com.