LION’S PAW….The Washington Post has an interesting story today about a “religious enlightenment” program the Army is running in one of its detention centers in Iraq. The idea, according to Maj. Gen. Doug Stone, is to recruit moderate imams to teach classes that promote a nonviolent interpretation of Islam:
The many religious leaders, all imams that we have working for us teach out of a moderate doctrine….once [the detainees] can actually read the words themselves and they believe the Koran they’re reading — this is something that we changed, which is a bizarre thing but true — then they actually can begin a conversation between the two of them.
And since we’ve now run, you know, a few hundred through this program, we are over-the-top encouraged that two things are present. We are able to determine the guys that don’t really give a shit about the Koran in the first place — they’re using it as a discipline — those guys are beginning to fall into the category of irreconcilables, and that’s helpful to me. I want to know who they are. They’re like rotten eggs, you know, hiding in the Easter basket, so that’s very helpful.
Then it’s also equally helpful to have guys who come out and say, “I didn’t know that. Now that I know that, I’m going to change my life.” And we poly them. You’d be — interesting to know, because we were trying to figure out if they’re messing with us. But we are convinced that they have made a significant change.
….Now, I’ll tell you something that has never happened, in my recollection, in detention and happened on September the 2nd of this year. We had a compound of moderates, for the first time, overtake Takfirist extremists. It’s never happened before. Found them, identified them, threw them up against the fence, and shaved the frickin’ beards off of them. That — I mean, that is historic….And then the whole pledge and guarantor — I mean, we had a mother so overjoyed she fainted yesterday. You know, we’ve had detainees, you know, when we said to them, “Okay, which gate do you want to go out,” just — you know, just over-ecstatic that they get to make a choice.
This sounds like a fairly standard counterinsurgency reeducation program, and it’s probably useful if it doesn’t jump the tracks. The problem, as with so many other things we’re doing in Iraq, is with that “few hundred” number that Stone threw out. In a population of 25 million that’s just not much. Stone claims he’s “running a big factory here,” but really, it’s more like an artisan program and it doesn’t sound like something that could be scaled up effectively. For more, the Post’s summary story is here.