UNDER THE GUN IN IRAQ by Robert Cole

UNDER THE GUN IN IRAQ

My Year Training the Iraqi Police
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Think the insurgents are bad news? Try Iraq’s government—and its police.

In 2004, retired California cop Cole took a civilian contractor gig (he lets slip that it paid $350 a day) in Iraq to train police forces throughout the country in modern crime-suppression techniques. The task bore a steep learning curve for all concerned; as he relates, his teaching began at the most elementary level with such things as handcuffing a suspect and stepping aside after pounding on a door to avoid getting shot from the other side. Stateside cops usually don’t have to contend with IEDs and suicide bombs, and thus Cole finds himself acquiring skills he had not needed before. His memoir of a year in-country is steeped in cultural insensitivity (for instance, he likens the blended sounds of muezzin calls to prayer coming from different mosques as “the equivalent of a really bad garage-band playoff”), and civil libertarians will recoil upon learning that the training manual dispenses with the niceties of Miranda and “all those sissy-ass disciplines you had to follow your entire career” in favor of some good old shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later frontier justice, which apparently is all a “suspicious character” deserves in Iraq. But Cole’s bluster and bravado erode; the cops, the “IP,” may be wildly incompetent, but at least some of them are brave enough to stand up and fight for their country, even if Cole has to convince them to dispense with prayer during duty hours on the Hobbesian grounds that setting down a weapon is inviting death. Now stationed in Haiti, Cole concludes that it’s just not working: Too many cops are needed, the Iraqi government is too corrupt and the conditions are too dangerous: “You could take fifty of the best cops in Sacramento and send them to Baghdad and have them police the streets, and they’ll be dead in a week.”

A sobering read from another lost front.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59102-559-9
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2007