Corporate Contributions to Education
David Everett Gives Back in Iraq
Whatever their personal opinions about the war in Iraq, many Americans are content to watch the daily skirmishes play out from the comfort of their own living rooms, as disturbing as they may find what they see. And then there’s David Everett. A practicing attorney and father of three teenage children from the village of Larchmont, New York, Everett volunteered for a tour of duty in Iraq last year, not because he had to, but—in his words—because he wanted to make a contribution towards the American effort to bring peace to Iraq.
Everett, whose affiliation with the military began in 1970 with his enlistment in the National Guard at the age of 17, volunteered for and was deployed to the combat zone in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. The Brooklyn native subsequently attained the rank of Colonel in the Army Reserve and after over 30 years of service was transferred to the Retired Reserve in 2002. He volunteered for recall to active duty in 2005 with a particular goal in mind: “So much of what is going on in Iraq is not just military but civil-military. I wanted to help build bridges with the Iraqis by helping to train their police. It seemed clear to me that the sooner we made the Iraqi security forces effective and self-reliant, the sooner we could bring our young men and women home.” As a Colonel and senior U.S. military advisor to Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, Everett was given the challenging assignment of establishing and developing an Internal Affairs Directorate to investigate police corruption and human rights abuses.
Under the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein, corruption had been rampant. “The Iraqi police were paid only $5 per month. The thought was, these guys were going to take bribes and steal anyway, so why pay them? The [police] uniform was like a license to steal,” recalls Everett in disgust. Among the things he did with the goal of ultimately creating a culture shift that would empower integrity and respect for human rights, Everett, a former Assistant District Attorney, helped professionalize the Iraqi police force by developing a four-week Internal Affairs investigator training course. “I think that things are going forward now,” concludes Everett. Indeed, the ranks of Iraqi Internal Affairs police have swelled threefold, from 600 to 1800 investigators, since Everett was assigned to the program in October 2005.
“A lot of the momentum is the result of mentoring by American forces. The norm of corruption, stealing and abuse is a condition that has existed in Iraq for decades. Unfortunately, the culture of police misconduct cannot be changed overnight. The American military and American police trainers are charged with delivering the message that this isn’t the way you’re supposed to do things and their interaction with the Iraqi police has gone a long way in getting that point across.”
Everett’s job was not without personal jeopardy. “You reconcile yourself to your own mortality,” muses Everett. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that every time you get on the road there, you ask yourself, ‘Is this going to be the day?” In fact, Everett’s unit was rocketed, and there were close calls involving loss of life and injury to others. Safely home in Larchmont, Everett still experiences a sudden jolt when he hears piercing, concussive sounds, such as the sudden slamming of a door: “I hear a loud noise and I’m back there,” he reflects soberly.
Throughout his assignment, which ended in April of 2006, Everett developed an understanding of the hopes and dreams of everyday Iraqi people: “You really appreciate the fact that most of the people there just want to have normal lives again. Most of them are not political or partisan. The fringe is creating the overwhelming portion of the problems in Iraq,” Everett explains.
Everett comes by his desire to give back to the global community naturally. His parents, Edith and the late Henry Everett, are both known as creative philanthropists and visionaries who served tirelessly on the boards of trustees of diverse charitable and public interest organizations. Everett himself is a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Visitors of the City University of New York School of Law and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. “My parents were very principled people, They taught me to stand up for what I think is right,” sums up Everett, who clearly has done that in spades by risking his life to better the life of the Iraqi people. “What’s most important is to treat people with dignity and respect and appreciate the fact that all people have value,” he adds simply.#