HIT, Iraq --
In the United States, the people have the power. It’s part of what makes our country so great. That’s why bringing democracy to Iraq has been a top priority since day one. No one is above the law – period.
Though more than four years have passed since the fall of Saddam, security is still a major issue. For most cities, this responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the police chief. It’s his job to fight for the people he’s sworn to protect.
The city of Hit was a prime example of what happens when terrorists are given free reign. And up until a few months ago, this was still the case. Enter Brig. Gen. Hamid Ibrahim Jazaa, the former Hit-district police chief.
“Here’s a man who could make stuff happen,” said Army Lt. Col. Douglas C. Crissman, the commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. “Hamid was the only guy brave enough to take up arms against [Al Qaeda]; courageous enough to walk the streets in defiance.”
Earlier this year, Hamid was instrumental in the orchestration of Operation Shurta Nasir (Police Victory). Unlike previous operations, this one was both conceived and executed by Iraqi Police themselves.
“This city has been owned by terrorists for a long time,” Hamid said in a previous interview. “Many innocent civilians have died here; it’s time for those responsible to pay the price.”
Unfortunately, one of those “innocent civilians” was Hamid’s own son, who was beheaded on a soccer field in the center of Hit in 2005.
“For Hamid, this was about more than just getting rid of insurgents – it was personal,” Crissman said. “What a perfect guy for the job.”
Using tactics learned from Task Force 2-7’s police training team, the IP-led operation yielded the capture of several high-value targets, the discovery of multiple weapons caches and improvised explosive devices, the establishment of two new police stations and the re-acquisition of the city’s hospital.
“The IP’s are extremely effective, simply because they’re locals,” said Army Capt. Mark A. Cobos, officer-in-charge of the joint coordination center. “Some of them have lived right down the street their entire lives. They know who belongs here and who doesn’t. It’s easy for them to point out foreign fighters.”
Hamid, who has lived here all his life, was also involved in the initial recruitment of Hit’s IP force.
“No one wanted to join up,” explained Crissman. “They were all too afraid of what might happen to their families. But rather than give up, Hamid went across the river to Zuwayah and got the job done. This man deserves a lot of credit.”
And credit he got. Hamid’s ability to tame Hit when AQI ran the show was impressive, to say the least. He commanded respect from both sides of the fence.
“I knew Hamid back in the early ‘80s,” said Col. Sallah Rasheed Al Goud, the new Hit-district police chief. “When he first got the job, I thought he’d last no more than two months. I was surprised he made it as long as he did.”
Hamid was a hero – the man who took back Hit. Ironically, his newfound fame ultimately proved to be his undoing. Too much power can corrupt even the best of intentions.
“He was a great combat leader,” Crissman said. “But after the city was secure and things died down, his calling was no longer there. That’s when things started to go south.”
According to Crissman, a number of disturbing reports were surfacing. Allegations claimed Hamid was engaging in various criminal activities, to include: abusing detainees and/or releasing them for money, selling confiscated items for personal profit and extra-judicial killings (murder).
Hamid had quickly outlived his fame and the respect that came with it. The people of Hit were fed up, calling for his immediate removal from office.
After roughly 11 months as the Hit-district police chief, Hamid was arrested on May 29.
“We believe Hamid might’ve made some deals with terrorists out of necessity,” Crissman said, “ones that protected the citizens of Hit. With him out of the picture, there were concerns that all bets would be off. Fortunately, the whole thing went down without a single shot fired.”
Enter Sallah. This native of Hit spent 23 years in the Iraqi Army. With five years of college education, including a master’s degree in military science, the man’s credentials speak for themselves.
“This city needs a calm, rational, professional leader,” Crissman said, “someone who can handle administrative issues, work with the city council, and if need be, plan military operations. We believe Sallah is that guy.”
His first order of business was to change the public’s perception of IP’s. Sallah set out to establish a professional police force; men who set the example for others to follow.
“Many of the IP’s have their priorities mixed up,” said Sallah said. “They’re more worried about a paycheck than providing security for the people. It’s my job to change that mentality.”
Hamid, on the other hand, never worried about the mundane issues. Taking down terrorists was his lone specialty.
“Sallah is an enforcer; more like a police chief back home,” Crissman said. “He’s making sure his IP’s not only look the part, they act it too.”
But how can the people of Hit be sure Sallah isn’t another Hamid? Man’s natural lust for power knows no boundaries.
“One could argue that everyone here is a little corrupt,” Crissman said. “The people are simply products of their environment. Even back in the states, no one is perfect.”
While there are no guarantees, Sallah will let his actions speak for themselves.
“As far as how I’m doing so far goes,” Sallah said, “you’ll have to ask the people. They’ll tell you the truth. And after all, it’s their opinion that matters.”