The US prison camp, Bucca, in Iraq may have been the birth place of the terror group ISIS, because extremists were housed together with free time to devise a terror plan against America.
It’s estimated that more than 100,000 men passed through camp Bucca while it was open between 2003 and 2009, many of whom became radicalised in the camp.
The camp provided the leaders of the ISIS with the chance to network with members of Saddam Hussein’s old regime and other extremists, widening their support base.
The camp was split amongst religious groups and allowed militants to enforce their own sharia law, radicalising many men who’d later join ISIS.
Most notably Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the current leader of ISIS, was held in the camp for several years before his release in 2009.
Former Camp Bucca guard, Mitchell Gray, 48, told the New York Post of the hatred he felt from detainees:
When I say they hated us, I mean they looked like they would have killed us in a heartbeat if given the chance. I turned to the warrant officer I was with and I said, If they could, they would rip our heads off and drink our blood.
The New York Post also reports that problems with Camp Bucca began after the invasion of Iraq. In the invasion coalition forces couldn’t distinguish between allies and enemies and would just put large groups of military aged men into Camp Bucca.
At the time Americans knew that the two main factions of Islam in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites, shouldn’t be put together. However, Americans didn’t know that extremist Sunni’s would enforce their own brutal Sharia Law over more moderate Sunnis and could not be placed together in the same compound if they wanted to ensure peace. This led to the radicalisation of more moderate Sunnis and the ones that they didn’t follow were tortured. Extremists cut out tongues and sometimes gouged out their victims’ eyeballs.
Michael Weiss, co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, has said:
Bucca didn’t create the problem of anti-American sentiment, but it exacerbated the problem by localizing it and concentrating it, If you were a jihadist, Bucca became the place to be.
The most extreme inmates at the camp were placed in Compound 6. Since there were not enough US Guards to enter the compound and they didn’t speak Arabic, the extremist prisoners had the opportunity to strengthen extremism within the camp.
A former detainee Adel Jasim Mohammed told Al Jazeera:
Extremists had freedom to educate the young detainees.
I saw them giving courses using classroom boards on how to use explosives, weapons and how to become suicide bombers.
ISIS leader Abu Ahmed has also spoke of his time in the camp saying: “We had so much time to sit and plan,” adding “It was the perfect environment. We all agreed to get together when we got out. The way to reconnect was easy. We wrote each other’s details on the elastic of our boxer shorts. When we got out, we called. Everyone who was important to me was written on white elastic.”
Haji Bakir, a former colonel in Saddam Hussein’s air defense force was also housed at Bucca and despite not being a radical, he became the man who would organize ISIS’s structure.
The man in charge of the camp in 2007, Marine Maj. Gen. Doug Stone, learned that insurgents got caught intentionally so that they could get into the camp and plot.
They would come in and say, I believe this and such and therefore I’d like to get into Compound 34. These guys were using detention for their own purposes.
Stone did his best to stop the extremism spreading through the camp, he broke up the groups, released men who did not pose a threat to stop them being indoctrinated and brought in a man to teach a more moderate version of the Koran.
It made a difference. And if we had done some of those things five or six years earlier, it might have made more of a difference.
At that point, it was probably too little too late.