1000 British and Iraqi troops blasted their way in, and they blew up the building on the way out. 127 torture victims were freed from the out-of-control “Special Crimes Unit” of the Basra police, though the killer cops had fled by the time they arrived.

It would take a lot to get this sort of dramatic response from the British. I say that not to disparage the British forces, but only to acknowledge they were using more of a low-key management style in Basra. Steven Vincent, author of In The Red Zone, noted as much last year:

“…the British stand above the growing turmoil, refusing to challenge the Islamists’ claim on the hearts and minds of police officers. This detachment angers many Basrans.”The British know what’s happening but they are asleep, pretending they can simply establish security and leave behind democracy,” said the police lieutenant who had told me of the assassinations. “Before such a government takes root here, we must experience a transformation of our minds.”

In other words, real security reform requires psychological as well as physical training. Unless the British include in their security sector reform strategy some basic lessons in democratic principles, Basra risks falling further under the sway of Islamic extremists and their Western-trained police enforcers.

A few days later, Steven Vincent was killed–probably by the very rogue cops he criticized.

The British soon had more trouble with SCU. Remember the two captured SAS men? That was Special Crimes Unit, too:

There was a major rift in relations in September last year following a mission to rescue two British soldiers – thought to be members of the SAS – captured by the now-disbanded police unit.

Troops attempting to rescue the pair were initially repelled by an angry mob throwing stones and petrol bombs and were only recovered from militia at a nearby private house after armoured vehicles were brought in to smash through the station walls.

The Ministry of Defence eventually had to express “regret” over the way that was handled.

The condemnations have started already. Now I’ll bet they’ll just express regret over not dynamiting the station after the first raid.

(BTW–there’s an absurdly negative video report at the first link. The violence still rages!)