Most people are aware of the infamous Abu Ghbraib prison, which is known for its extreme brutalities of Muslims during the American occupation of Iraq, but I was just made aware of an even more notorious prison: Camp Bucca. Also deemed “Camp Hell” by the prisoners that were locked up there, this prison may have been the spawning point for ISIS within Iraq. During the American occupation of Iraq, US soldiers were having a difficult time distinguishing extremist Muslims and moderate Muslims, resulting in mass incarceration of these people throughout the war. Not a surprise, immense resentment for the US developed because of their abrupt invasion of Iraq and the mass incarceration of Iraqi citizens that ensued. This is where the Islamic State comes into play.
According to Vice News, 17 of the Islamic State’s top 25 senior leaders were housed at Camp Bucca during the war. Whether or not these people were already extremists at the time is up for debate, but there is no question that Camp Bucca made them more extreme. The group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was even an inmate at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq.
Obviously, much like most of the US government’s foreign policy goals, this all started out with good intentions. What the US did not account for when housing all of these alleged extremists together was some of them coordinating in furtherance of a much bigger goal. Since the US was very cognitive of the fact that Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims could not be housed together because they have historically fought against each other, Camp Bucca was divided into separate compounds containing specific sub-groups of Muslims. Additionally, the inmates were not just separated along Sunni-Shiite lines, but along ideological lines as well; moderate Muslims and extremist Muslims were also quickly housed separately. Thus, all extremist Muslims were housed in the same compound. The coordination between extremists got so bad in Camp Bucca that some decided to let themselves be caught in hopes of being incarcerated with their colleagues.
Marine Major General Doug Stone was put in charge of the camp in 2007 and said of the coordination between extremists that, “They showed up knowing about our intake process” and subsequently stated, “They would come in and say, “I believe this and such and therefore I’d like to get into Compound 34”. He also added: “These guys were using detention for their own purposes”.
In a Vice News interview with a former detainee of Camp Bucca, the former inmate suggested the prison camp was much like a school for radicalization. This sets up a direct link between the US and the spawning point of the most feared terrorist group in the world. As mentioned above, the group’s current leader was housed in Camp Bucca, although he was released in 10 short months on the basis of good behavior and not being considered a significant threat. Other eventual senior leaders of ISIS that were taken to Camp Bucca include Abu Ahmed and Haji Bakr, whom some say was the real mastermind behind the Islamic State’s structure and early success.
Despite the fact I had some beliefs that the US was the reason that ISIS rose up in the first place, I never thought I would have stumbled upon such concrete evidence like this. Now, it is important to ask the question: Could this have been avoided? To be honest, I am not completely sure of that. Overall, if the US did not invade Iraq through the government’s belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, one could conclude that ISIS would never have surfaced. However, it is extremely hard to say that the spawning of ISIS could have been avoided even though the US invaded. There is no argument against the fact that the US military made some regrettable mistakes as it pertains to the way that Camp Bucca was run, but could it have been avoided? No one knows for sure. I will say that I believe the invasion of Iraq was an enormous foreign policy blunder that will go down in history as one of the worst decisions the US government has made. Iraq is not in any better condition since we decided to “spread democracy” to the country. Countless lives and funds have been spent on the war in Iraq, which continues today, and a lot of it can be attributed to the mistakes that were made at Camp Bucca.
–Here is the link to the Vice News coverage on this: Islamic State in Iraq
–Contributed by R.A.