Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Looking Before I Leap

So I got all riled up, for a couple of reasons, when I read this Huffington Post Headline:

U.S. Begins "Religious Enlightenment" Programs For Iraqi Detainees To "Bend Them Back To Our Will"

I immediately assumed that the "religious enlightenment" was Christian fundamentalism. I also hated the phrase "bend them back to our will." blech.

But then I read the actual article on the Washington Post website, and learned a few interesting things:
  • Enlightenment training is taught by Muslim clerics who teach a "moderate doctrine"
  • Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, the commander of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq who came up with this program, speaks Arabic and said he reads the Koran daily
  • Stone's staff members include a specialist in Islamic youth programs and he has also put together "a positive program that has been proven in Islam to actually turn the kids around to sort of reject some of these other things."
  • Stone described a sort of religious insurgency that occurred at one detention facility on Sept. 2. "We had a compound of moderates for the first time overtake . . . extremists. It's never happened before. Found them, identified them, threw them up against the fence and shaved their frickin' beards off of them. . . . I mean, that is historic."
  • Other elements of Stone's program are being developed. He said he has created a "transition-out barracks" where detainees being released discuss civics and human rights. He has also begun a "huge, expensive" Rand Corp. research study on detainee motivation and morale and has plans for a major communication campaign.
  • He said he also wants to provide jobs for released detainees. "I'm not naive," Stone said. "If they don't have any income, they're going to go back" to the insurgency.
  • Of 60 people invited to Stone's presentation, only 4 bloggers showed up
So, to me, this guy doesn't sound like a dummy. I'm glad I clicked through and read the whole article rather than jumping to false conclusions.

But I will look forward to the day where we don't have to be such hard asses and force people to "bend to our will."