U.S. military detainment camps in Iraq became universities for terror when hardcore radical Muslims who were jailed with moderate, nonviolent Iraqis used the opportunity to intimidate and browbeat them into becoming fanatical terrorists, according to a U.S. Iraq War veteran.
Today, many of those who once were in U.S. custody are back on the frontlines, fighting for the Islamic State (ISIS) to establish a radical Muslim caliphate in the Middle East.
The charges come from Andrew Thompson, who spent time in Iraq as a compound intelligence officer at Camp Cropper in 2009 where, he told CNN News,
the radical prisoners actually ran the prison, forcing the often illiterate, moderate, and less threatening prisoners to obey their orders, while U.S. authorities did nothing to stop them.
"Space was at a premium and we simply could not separate everybody," Thompson told CNN. "We knew that there were going to be extremists within the moderate compounds."
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Even Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, was held in Camp Bucca in southern Iraq for five years and released.
Today, Thompson told CNN, "It is frustrating to open up stories on CNN and see pictures of those that we had in detainment."
Thompson told The New York Times that many of the Islamic States's top leaders, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, Abu Louay, Abu Kassem, Abu Jurnas, and others, were once in U.S. custody.
"The prisons became virtual terrorist universities," Thompson told the Times.
"The hardened radicals were the professors, the other detainees were the students, and the prison authorities played the role of absent custodian."
The compound's "emirs," as radical leaders were called, would force prisoners to listen to continual, brainwashing sermons espousing jihad. They would punish anyone found watching television, playing ping pong, seeking medical attention or taking vocational training with hearings before "Shariah courts" and beatings.
"They got smart enough that they would basically find a radical volunteer to pick a fight with the detainee they passed judgment on, and U.S. forces inadvertently helped them enforce that punishment because then they were sent to solitary confinement," he told CNN.
Dr. Jeremi Suri of the University of Texas told CNN that al-Baghdadi "was held with large numbers of other people who, as far as we can tell, were not nearly as radical as he was, and we have reason to believe that many of them have joined ISIS, but that’s part of his network. He used his position in prison as a soapbox."
"Coalition prisons became recruitment centers and training grounds for the terrorists the U.S. is now fighting," Thompson told the Times.
Both Thompson and Suri stress that the U.S. should "convince its regional partners to avoid mixing radicals and moderates" in prison camps in the future, adding, "If we continue to replay the history of mass incarceration in the Middle East, we will remain stuck in the current cycle where our counterterrorism efforts create more terrorists."
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