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Torture and Mayhem in Iraq - Mission Aborted

05/05/2004

The world, including friends of the United States, was appalled to learn of incidents of torture and rape at US detention centers in Iraq. Even more dismaying perhaps, was the conviction that there is more to come, and the knowledge that these sensational incidents are just part of a widespread pattern of abuse of civilians by US forces that could only lose friends and influence people to hate the USA.

Beyond the human suffering and loss of dignity, it is infuriating that nobody thought of the possibility of such brutalization. Can the US military possibly be so stupid? Could they really believe that "our boys don't do such things?" Were they so out of touch with reality, that it took an entire year before the problems which everyone knew about, and which could be read in every other blog coming out of Iraq, finally filtered their way into the upper echelons?

No independent mechanisms were put into place for redress of grievances or for supervision and inspection of arrests, detentions, interrogation and day-to-day behavior toward civilians at checkpoints. Troops were not educated in conduct norms, and cruel and brutal behavior was not punished. Even now, it is unlikely that much will be done beyond pinpoint legal action against the particular wrongdoers caught at one or two prison facilities. This is better, to be sure, than the procedure in most countries of the Middle East. Nobody has ever been brought to justice for torturing political prisoners or prisoners of war in Syria or Egypt. But surely it is not good enough. Unless there is a real change in behavior of US troops and their interactions with Iraqi civilians, they will go on making enemies of the Iraqi people. The change won't happen unless someone makes it happen, but it seems nobody is really aware of the problem.

The following is typical of reports we have been hearing for months:


Released only two weeks ago from a succession of prisons here, Mr. Mehdi, a 51-year-old merchant with heart trouble, said he had not been treated as badly as the men he saw in photos that have shocked Iraq -photos of black hoods, naked prisoners and leering American guards - but roughly, all the same. It was not surprise that he felt when he saw the pictures on television last week, he said, but nger and disappointment at the United States.

"I never would have expected this of them," said Mr. Mehdi, who said he was beaten so badly that he had to be hospitalized for three days after his arrest in December, when soldiers found a rocket-propelled grenade launcher - which he said was not his - in the garden of his rented house. "They are civilized people. When the Americans came I was so happy. I said: `We will have democracy. We will have freedom.'
"

"After I was arrested," he added, "the picture changed."

And again:


Human rights officials say most of the complaints they have heard centered not on treatment in prisons but on the arrests. American soldiers, they complain, burst into houses with excessive force, breaking furniture and windows, using foul language, placing hoods over suspects' heads and, often, beating them.

And yet again:


Mowafak Sami, 28, a lawyer who has brought a legal claim against the American military, said he was
arrested with his father and two brothers in early March, originally, he said, on suspicion of financing
anti-American insurgents. During the arrest, he said, one soldier struck him with the barrel of his gun,
blackening his eyes and opening a gash on his left brow.

In the prison at Baghdad International Airport, he said, he and other prisoners, including his
56-year-old father, a former general and construction company owner with several contracts for rebuilding the country's wrecked infrastructure, were forced to do knee bends until they were exhausted. He said that at other times they were forced to stand on one leg,
with both arms in the air, for an hour at a time.

His father was released after five days, and he was let out four days later, but his two brothers are
still in prison, he said.

"We were very happy when the regime fell," he said, referring to the toppling of Saddam Hussein last year.

"We were optimistic.

"But this savage process - arresting the innocents, house raiding, attacking houses with bombs - makes us feel aggressive against the coalition forces."

The focus on the few outrageous incidents at a detention camp might create the impression that this is a limited problem, that can be dealt with by disciplining a handful of soldiers. It is obviously not so. While US policy was intent on making friends of the Iraqi people, implementation of that policy by the army was turning them into enemies.

This was not an inevitable consequence of war. Like the looting after the war, the problem could have been foreseen, and measures could have been taken, and still could be taken to educate troops and to prevent wrongdoing, rather than simply punishing a few scapegoats.

Americans should not have repeated the mistake of the Israeli occupation. Israelis were convinced for many years that there never was an occupation as wonderful for the inhabitants as the Israeli occupation. Of course, nobody wants to believe that their army, their friends and their children could commit brutal acts. Nonetheless it is a fact. All Western democracies are based by belief in the inherent fallibility of mankind, and they are supported and maintained by mechanisms that check and regulate power whenever power is given to anyone. The Iraqi people were never supposed to be the enemy, but the US system did not provide any safeguards for their rights, and it still doesn't.

U.S. President Bush is due to address the "Arab people" via Al-Arabiya and Al-Hurra television, where he will apologize for the misdeeds at Abu Ghraib. He will say that the torture and mistreatment of prisoners is shameful and unacceptable. But surely, it is shameful and unacceptable that there was, and is, such widespread mistreatment of Iraqi civilians and that nobody at the top levels knew about it until now. It will also be shameful and unacceptable if nothing is done to improve the situation beyond the limited disciplinary measures recommended in the report of Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba which relates to these horrendous incidents as if they were totally isolated exceptions to the rule, and creates the impression that outside of Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, everything is just fine. It is not the fault of Major General Taguba. He was requested to report about Abu Ghraib, and he reported about Abu Ghraib. But nobody was asked to report on the day to day interactions of US soldiers with Iraqis, search methods, behavior and courtesy at checkpoints, arrest procedures etc. Hardly anyone has mentioned that the problem did not occur in isolation.

Despite the pious protests of Bush, of White House Spokesman McClellan, of Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and of Condoleezza Rice, the fact is that Taguba's report was only commissioned in January. It was completed by March, but Donald Rumsfeld had not even read it after the scandal broke. (see here)

What US troops have done in Iraq is certainly not as bad as the evil inflicted by Saddam Hussein, or the killing of tens of thousands by Hafaz Assad in El-Hama, Syria, or other brutalities that have been perpetrated in the Middle East by local regimes. However, that is hardly an excuse. The US came to Iraq to do good, not to do less bad than some other monstrous Middle Eastern regimes. It came to the Iraqi people as a friend, not as an enemy, to "liberate" them from Saddam Hussein. The man who is beaten up by US soldiers is not very comforted by the fact that somewhere else a hundred people were beaten up much worse. The lady who was raped is not comforted by the fact that somewhere else a hundred women were raped. The major mission of the invasion of Iraq was to show Iraqis and the Arab world that there is a better way to run a country, and a better way to bring hope and progress to their people. By allowing troops to brutalize the Iraqi population, the US command in Iraq seems to have proven the opposite.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000253.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 01:32 PM CST [Link]

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Replies: 10 comments

Yes, such horrible things happen -- even by Americans. A key difference is the process by which this will be resolved -- it will be resolved.

Under other forms of governments, things like this rarely, if ever change.

Certainly it hasn't in the past 30 or so years for Iraq.

The suffering and wrong doing is difficult to see and sometimes difficult to address. The process will work. Things will improve.

There is no justification for abuse or actions of cruelty. However, it also amazes me the attitude and expectation of "instant reconstruction" and "instant democracy" portrayed by so many.

I wish someone could explain that.

Posted by Keith @ 05/06/2004 12:27 AM CST

Neither webhost Ami, above, nor commentator Keith, whose remarks are posted below, note a key component to this latest scandal. I have thus far only heard one mass media analyst note this most noteworthy element, and call for public discussion (Brookings Institute commentator being interviewed on NPR). To wit, the privatization of Military Intelligence, namely jobbing out interrogation of prisoners.

This sick twist by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld team continues the privatization of foreign policy operations set in place during the Reagan-Bush years of the 1980's when private companies were used to wage wars in Central America that were kept secret from Congress.

I will leave the moralizing on this deviation from accountability, that should be the bedrock of any democracy, to others. That privateers should leap to profit from war and the perpetuation of misery is ugly from any angle, even if it were true that such a development is a "necessary evil," which of course it is not.

I will also leave to veterans and current military men and women the corrosive effects on morale it has to defer to unranked and unaccountable privateers in the course of risking one's neck in a war zone.

What seems astonishing for its omission from nearly all public discussions about how Bush-Cheney-Rummy have run this "venture" is that they have been hiring private companies at exorbitant "Occupational Hazard Pay" rates to do the work that was once part of military service. These private companies hire their intelligence gatherers and field operatives based on previous experience. The only place staff could have legally gleaned such experience would've been at taxpayer expense, trained in the ranks of the U.S. armed forces. This means that there is now no longer just a revolving door from public service in government to the military-industrial sector as we saw when **** Cheney ended his first term running Persian Gulf War #1 by taking a job as CEO of Halliburton Petroleum Services where he raked in $30 million dollars during the 1990's in acquired stock that he sold in order to run for public service again in the current administration.

Now rank and file soldiers, trained at taxpayer expense, then go out the revolving door, hire on to private companies that then sell their "specialized services" to the U.S. government at huge profit lost in the cost of war (current case) or 'black budget' (the 1970-s-80's billions in dollars that went to Afghani operations training and fanaticizing and incentivizing Mujahedeen to oust the Soviets, only to have these forces turn on their sponsors once the Soviet Empire collapsed of its own dead weight). There is no disciplinary or law enforcement accountability since these privateeers are not part of any state army. There is no accrued military intelligence as these privateers work apart from MI and are not part of its command structure. These private companies function as a democrratically-elected government's private Mafia for purposes of intimidation.

Also, they must show a profitable return on investment to their investors, who may well be the very military officers who trained their now private staffs.

To see where the seeds of this idea have led in our lifetimes, with no appreciable lessons learned, please read USC Journalism Professor (and former NY TIMES foreign correspondent) A.J. Langguth's booklength study of such a privateer (back in the 1970's when rather than working for a private company, Congress authorized Torture Instructors be recruited from the ranks of municipal police departments of U.S. cities, and tasked with training Central and South American military dictatorships with "maintaining order." The book is now out of print, titled, HIDDEN TERRORS, but is available used for a few dollars per copy on Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0394738020/qid=1083807912/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/102-7678124-0663360?v=glance&s=books

The utility in reading this book is that it studies the all-too-human traits of good family man and reliable Indiana policeman, Dan Mitrione, whose professional ambitions led to U.S. taxpayers subsidizing something out of an S&M or snuff movie perpetrated on Uruguayan homeless men and women, tortured for no reason other than to learn how to perfect torture and interrogation for the purposes of effectively teaching those acquired skills to Washington's VOSOB's (Very Own Sons of Bitches, excuse our French, but that is the term in fact used by U.S. geo-political elites).

All this to rebut commentator Keith's seemingly innocent point that the U.S. Government is not in the same league as Saddam Hussein's regime because we Americans can and do stop our government from such nefarious operations when they become known. What does it say when such nefarious operations appear in almost every successive administration embedded deep within institutions that outlast each elected administration?

Posted by Mitch @ 05/06/2004 05:38 AM CST

CHRISTIAN RACISM KILLS PALESTINIANS

From: pastorjerryh@excite.com
To: Suez1950@aol.com
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Dear Martha:

I am particularly interested in the materials that have to do
with the role of dispensationalism (end-time belief) in the conflict
in Palestine. One of the ways that I can help is to collect the
facts and pull together a summary of what is going on and to present
it to the Body of Christ.

You know, I have heard for years that the Church did nothing
about the slaughter of the Jews in World War II because they thought
Hitler was the anti-Christ and they were hesitant to resist his
actions because they thought it was all a part of the end-times
prophecies. It appears that the Church and our nation are once
again turning a deaf ear to this current situation because they
believe that the Jewish/Paelstinian conflict is a part of end-time
prophecy and that it must be allowed to run its course. They
also believe that they must stand with Israel - regardless -
if they don't, they will come under a curse from God!

I am writing several key leaders with this information and
I am asking them for their insights into the situation. Let's
pray that God will somehow use us to expose this mess and to
bring restoration into the picture. The problem is further
complicated with the fact that neither side believes in Jesus -
neither the Jews nor the Palestinians. Of course, we know that
this conlfict will only be settled in the Person of Jesus Himself.
And this is the key reason that Ali and others who know Jesus
are in a very strategic position to effect lasting change.

Our prayers, tears. and deep concerns go up before the Lord
continually regarding this entire situation and the safety of Ali
and the other men and women of God in that area of the world.
"Lord, give us wisdom - for we have never been this way before!"

Martha, the recent article you forwarded to me is great.
As you find further information along that line, please send it
to me.

Blessings,

Apostle Jerry

Have you been told that the present day state of Israel is the fulfillment of Bible Prophesy? Christian' racism. against Arabs is hateful. Jesus opposed racism. [Gal 3;28]
Take a Stand In Front of a Church
That Will Not Take a Stand cecarl@whtt.org

Posted by Martha Abu-Shawish @ 05/08/2004 08:15 PM CST

Why are Americans so surprised at what is going on in Iraq? They invade unilaterally and destroy the country without adequate preparation and post war planning and without any understanding of Middle Eastern culture. They bring chaos and casualties and wonder why they are not welcomed. The US soldiers are in way over their heads without clear directives or equipment while trying to cope with the horrific realities of war about which the average person has no concept. And if they do not have nervous breakdowns or commit suicide they succumb to acts of depravity as might certain people from any nation subject to the right conditions. We know what human nature can do under stressful circumstances. Why do Americans assume that their soldiers are different from human beings of other races? It is another symptom of arrogance and superiority and shows again how out of touch we are with the world and ourselves!

Posted by Brita @ 05/10/2004 09:57 PM CST

Mitch wrote:
"Neither webhost Ami, above, nor commentator Keith, whose remarks are posted below, note a key component to this latest scandal. I have thus far only heard one mass media analyst note this most noteworthy element, and call for public discussion (Brookings Institute commentator being interviewed on NPR). To wit, the privatization of Military Intelligence, namely jobbing out interrogation of prisoners."

The tragicomic privatization of the war is a separate issue. However, the Taguba report blames the torture on regular army and military police.

If private interrogators were involved, they did whatever they did with the knowledge and tacit consent of the military. The girl who is smiling in the torture photo is a US soldier, not a contractor.

Ami Isseroff

Posted by Moderator @ 05/12/2004 11:47 AM CST

The observation made by Mitch (05/06 May) about the USA's supporting role in Latin America's tragedies is worth repeating. A few thousands of North Americans during several decades were exposed to grisly photos, tales of torture, murder, disappearances -- almost none of it appearing in the mainstream media which, if it reported it at all placed it on page 11, section 'D' next to the car ads. Rather, in friends' kitchens and in church basements
we saw those photos, heard those stories in heavily accented English from the mouths of refugees whose last names were never revealed for fear their relatives would be disappeared. Some of us went on tours, teachers, nurses, religious groups, labour unions; we met saintly people labelled by Reagan as 'terrorists', were shot at by Reagan's 'freedom fighters', went to funerals of farmers, teachers, doctors, babies -- victims of those 'freedon fighters'. I met a woman whose life work had become removing mutilated bodies of all ages -- headless, faceless, hacked off genitals - from the garbage dump in San Salvadore. She found several every week,photographed them and toured the world to show what was happening at the hands of one USA supported regime. She did it in the face of constant threats to her life. I don't know if she survived.
Now, with the war in Iraq falling into chaos, President Bush/Cheney/Rumsfelt is turning
his attentions to Latin America:
to Cuba and Venezuela. It's an election year and he needs a success story, so he's going to get one where Reagan did, using the same methods: 'regime change', media blitz, murder of the truth. It worked for several previous presidents: in Nicaragua, El Salvadore, Guatemala, Haiti, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Grenada.
Does anyone remember the cheering crowd in San Salvadore on Sept 11, 2001? Could it have included people whose loved ones
mutilated bodies were thrown on the San Salvadore rubbish dump by death squads funded through the efforts of secretive men with connections to the CIA? Those grieving people have never received an apology from the USA
-- not even an admission of responsibility -- and it is so terribly hard to forgive in such circumstances.
The question is, does the American electorate have any idea of what was done in its name in its own 'back yard'-- or what is being planned right now? If it
does, will the American people
stand on guard, THIS TIME, for the Truth? If not, what does it say about the USA? About 'democracy'? Are Americans a people who believe what their leaders tell them without checking the facts? Are they a people whose trust in their leaders would have them follow orders, no matter how evil, as Lynndie English claims she was doing?
My fear is that not enough Americans care enough to take the time to learn the truth. That the WMD story was so widely believed, that so few people were capable of recognizing PROPAGANDA, that people who watch the news on CNN or read it in Time magazine imagine they are getting 'information' is honestly terrifying.
Americans, wake up! You are living in the most powerful country in history, and that gives you responsibility to try harder, learn more, keep your OWN Monsters out of powerful places. The rest of the world can't keep the USA in line so YOU have to do it yourselves. Get informed.

Posted by ruth @ 05/15/2004 02:34 AM CST

Most Americans are disappointed about the revelations from the Iraqi prison. However, the mistreatment of murderers and rapists in that prison must be considered in the proper perspective relative to what Sadaam and his sons did and what Bin Laden did to 3000 innocent people on U.S. soil.

Posted by Ben Collins @ 05/21/2004 05:46 PM CST

In response to Ben Collins: you are overlooking something. These people that you call 'murderers and rapists' have not been tried for their crimes. They are, under the laws of democracies like the USA and Canada, innocent until proven guilty.
Ben, I do not believe that you think innocent people should be tortured, humiliated and killed in revenge for the World Trade Center deaths. I do not even believe that you think guilty people should be treated as were the prisoners in Abu Ghraib. I do believe that you, I, and ALL of humanity must examine our souls before we raise a hand or support an attack against another.

Posted by ruth @ 05/23/2004 03:07 AM CST

I think this site will interest you...
Sincerly,
Mark

Posted by Mark @ 02/25/2006 07:32 PM CST

I think this site will interest you...
Sincerly,
Mark

Posted by the poetry man @ 02/25/2006 07:33 PM CST


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