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Camp Bucca Joint Operations Base in Umm Qasr, Iraq 2010
Photos by Danny Toma
Posted with permission

Camp Bucca played a major role in Operation Iraqi Freedom due to its primary mission – hosting many of the most dangerous prisoners of war in the country. Established close to Umm Qasr, one of the most important ports in Iraq, the sprawling site hosted more than 20,000 prisoners during the few years of the invasion. It was named after Ronald Bucca, a NYC fire marshal who died in the 11 September 2001 attacks.

After the 2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, many detainees were transferred to Bucca, where US authorities hoped to showcase a model detention facility with a capacity for 30,000 detainees. Nevertheless, Camp Bucca was the scene of prisoner abuse documented over many years by the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and US Army investigators. 

Housing thousands of insurgents and a significant portion of the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq, it is believed that Bucca became a training ground for extremism, and contributed to the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 

In September 2009 Camp Bucca closed down detainee operations and the U.S. military handed the base to the government of Iraq in December 2010. In 2011 the base reopened as The Basra Gateway Hotel where business executives and employees of oil and gas companies enjoyed the heavy security the former prison provided.

"To learn more, check out Danny's Book "Outside the Wire:  A Foreign Service Officer in Southern Iraq" (Vanguard, 2020)

Book Summary:

'Not everyone who serves in wartime wears a uniform. Outside the Wire is a story of one of these men, Danny Toma, a veteran Foreign Service Officer, who spent sixteen months with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Basra, a joint State Department-U.S. Military operation in southern Iraq. Carrying out his duty alongside the 1st Infantry Division, and later the 36th ID, Toma describes in great detail the day-to-day experience of living in a war zone, from the thrill and uncertainty of enemy attack to coping with the frustration of trying to rebuild a country while others labor to tear it down.

Combining humor with an attention to detail, he allows the reader to feel a part of the action and to get to know the personalities of those who were there on the ground - Americans, Iraqis, and British among them. More than just a history, it is also a tribute to the men and women, both civilian and military, who volunteered when their country called upon them and who forged a bond that the passage of time will never break.'

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