By R. Scott Rappold, Colorado Springs Gazette
Daniel Bradley talked about liberty in a palace once owned by Saddam Hussein's son, in a movie theater the dictator once used for private screenings, in front of an audience whose job it once was to enforce the Iraqi leader's brutal will.
An FBI agent from Colorado Springs, Bradley was in Iraq to help train police officers who will be the nucleus of law enforcement in the new nation, to prepare them for the task of establishing order and protecting human rights in a country that has seen little of either in a long time.
"Their lives have changed drastically. They went from having absolute control to being high-risk targets," Bradley said. "Their decision to remain in their position as law enforcement officers spoke in great depth of their desire to see their country move to its next phase."
An 18-year FBI veteran who oversees three regional offices, Bradley went to Iraq in late October with two other Colorado agents to take over the final three weeks of a seven-week course for officers.
Theirs is a dangerous job 750 officers were killed between the fall of Baghdad and June of this year, and hundreds more have died since.
Bradley developed strong respect for those who risk their lives for the equivalent of $180 a month.
"That takes a tremendous amount of courage," he said. "I certainly think these individuals have a deep concern for their country."
Most of the 50 in the class had served under Saddam.
They knew the fundamentals of law enforcement; Bradley taught them about organized crime, the role of police in fighting terrorism, and human rights under the law a concept that hasn't been too big in Iraq since Hussein's Baath Party seized power in 1968.
Basic U.S. legal practices, such as the requirement that a judge approve a search warrant, were alien to officers whose job it had been to preserve the regime first and serve the community second.
When the last week had to be canceled, it ended up being a crash course. Organizers did not realize it would infringe on Ramadan celebrations, so rather than wait a week, Bradley came home.
There isn't much to tell of his Iraq experience outside the classroom. Except for the trips to and from the airport in a heavily armored bus, he was inside the fortified Green Zone the entire time.
In fact, he was embarrassed to tell people he was only there for a month, because the soldiers are there for much longer and dealing with the dangers beyond Green Zone fences.
"When I would talk to the soldiers, I never heard one complain. I never heard one question the mission," he said. "You realize how big a sacrifice they are putting forth, and, frankly, my experience was mild compared to theirs."
He also understands the travails the Iraqi police he helped train will face in the coming months, with an uncertain election looming and violence escalating.
"Somebody once said democracy's not pretty. I think you would agree, looking at our own history, good things don't come easy," he said.
He recalled asking one of the officers, through an interpreter, how he felt about Iraq since the Americans came.
"His response was, I miss the stability, but not as much as I appreciate the freedom,'" he said.