Clear, hold, build is a hard road


Friday, July 14, 2017

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The debate is over. Parliament has agreed, so let's move to quell crime in Zones of Special Operations (Zones) and nationwide. We will support the security forces in their lawful acts to create the low crime nation we crave. We gave up some choices in a just cause but do not celebrate, as the fight is ahead.

We now move into the “clear, hold, build” (CHB) process so send Mr Holness your critique and ideas as our lives depend on it. CLEAR means to kill, capture or drive out insurgents; HOLD is to establish defences so they do not return and residents can clear debris, find lost family and rest; BUILD is to pour in resources to repair houses, bridges, roads; bring in food and water; restore utilities. Usually these are externally funded.

The random nature of CHB means it may catch or kill a few criminals in cordons or a car chase, but citizens will suffer. Yes, crime stats may decline, but the root causes will remain; killers and guns will still be out there. Is human-rights training for soldiers a clue to what is ahead? CHB was cutting edge in the 40s in the British/Malay war, and was fine-tuned in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and adapted to urban war. It is now gold standard in wars on foreign soil but not in domestic policing.

The CHB process yielded chequered results for the USA and UK military (read the experts) but what are the precedents with domestic police in a democracy, Mr Montague? In Nigeria, CHB is used by the military against Boko Haram which seizes towns and governs. In crime-ridden South Africa with ghettos of three million plus, no way! And no white democracy uses CHB in its borders as it is scorched earth.

So why are we?

Some months ago we asked for a commissioner of police with anti-terrorist credentials and it got no traction; yet Cabinet now chooses an anti-terrorist military process for local crime. The CHB is a triptych of sequenced actions but the key is the strategies each uses. Who created those to be used against our civilians? What are they? Mr Holness says abuse “will not happen” so he must see violence is close to the surface. Otherness seems to be prized. Usually, we hail bonding forces and masses — all from the same demographic but the CHB puts space between soldiers and civilians. Will they respect rights or batter us to confess? Why not train them to use lie detectors and use tasers before guns are drawn?

Police have decades of crime data and know the “hot spots” so why not declare the zones now? Will Cabinet use happenstance so Ruthven Road is declared a zone because of an assassination? Mr Holness should review this policy as, after decades of studies we know where the termite nests are.

CLEAR to an army is simple. The adversary is well defined, with uniforms, arms, faith, a flag. Not so here. Mosul was captured by ISIS three years ago and the military has just “cleared” them. Our criminals live in the community, with baby mother and all. What does clear mean to us? Will we have firefights; search of people, homes, vehicles; detentions, arrests without detective work? Clear is physical so expect force, intimidation, killing, or drive out the criminals! But the decanted criminals will go to new districts, create havoc and that community will then be declared a zone. A domino effect? Clear may be a movable feast of house, job, food, training. Community development will then be driven by itinerant criminal activity. How innovative!

HOLD in wars of attrition — like Vietnam and Iraq for example — is a defensive stage. The insurgent's flag is removed and sleepers are flushed out. Here, our criminals are just like us; but cowardly men — no faith, no flag, no cohones for a firefight. They live among us and prey on the vulnerable. Towns in Iraq have been on hold seven years as people sort themselves out. What does hold mean for us? Soldiers checking IDs at a barrier? How long will this last?

BUILD is the last in the trilogy. Convoys of resources rushed to a zone to restore, rebuild, replenish. Food, water, clothes, jobs. Wow! There will be no bridges, factories, churches, houses destroyed as on CNN. Many may be killed but infrastructure will be in no worse state than before; the district next door will not be zoned but it'll be just as needy. Cabinet will fiddle budgets to do normal State duties — fix roads and collect garbage — but will call them “special” for they have nothing to do with crime. Is build intended to get resources to address neglected Cabinet responsibilities? Do we have resources? Community building is no quick fix!

The job of the police is to catch criminals, corral their arsenals and build good cases. They are not judge, jury or executioner. When a similar event happened in the 20th century, it was analogue, brutal and my friend Pearnel Charles wrote a book about his trials. This is the 21st century and while Audley Shaw has not mastered his cellphone, Andrew Holness and Robert Montague were born in the digital age of computers, DNA swabs, GPS bracelets, micro tags, CCTV, tasers, stab vests, spit hoods, data mining, car and body cameras. What data tools or models is prime minister in council using to project results? Did we bring in investigative capability to help the police? Who will get the evidence, prepare cases, go to court? Or will it be the usual bloodbath to clear up a million cases in one shoot-out? Chief Quallo, can we help save our own lives?

Pray for Mr Holness, the team and a quick victory. Protect your family. One Jamaica!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon) is a strategist and project manager. Send responses to or .




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