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Archive for the ‘torture’ Category

The Salvador Plan

Posted by Charles II on March 22, 2013

Back in May, 2005, I linked a story in ZMag that stated:

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal from February 16, numerous “pop-up militias” thousands strong are proliferating in Iraq. Not only are many of these shadowy militias linked to Iraqi politicians, but the Pentagon is arming, training, and funding them for use in counter-insurgency operations. Most disturbing, one militia in particular–the “Special Police Commandos”–is being used extensively and has been singled out by a U.S. general for conducting death squad strikes known as the “Salvador option.”

In November of 2005, Nicholas Davies of ZMag sourced this to Newsweek (Peter Maass of NYT Mag was also important in uncovering the story), and identified the US officers in charge as Col. Daniel Steele and former DEA officer Steven Casteel, and noted that:

On September 8, 2005 the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a human rights report, stating that the governing institutions created by the United States in Iraq are engaged in an organized campaign of detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution, directed primarily at Iraqis who practice the Sunni form of Islam.

The Guardian and BBC have at last discovered the story, and have fleshed out some of the details of how it operated, particularly the point that it was directed by General Petraeus through a subordinate, Colonel James Coffman. Mona Mahmoud, Maggie O’Kane, Chavala Madlena, and Teresa Smith, The Guardian:

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency….

The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that Petraeus – who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal – has been linked through an adviser to this abuse.

Most importantly, the BBC turned it into a 51 minute video that you can watch at the Mahmoud et al. article, so maybe it will finally register on public consciousness.

By the way, Steele was apparently Oliver North’s operations guy. Also, Maggie O’Kane directly credits Wikileaks for making the report possible.

The US ran death squads in Vietnam. The US ran death squads in Central America. The US ran death squads in Iraq. The US, I believe, is running death squads even now. There’s enough on the record to convene a war crimes court on Donald Rumsfeld.

Posted in Iraq war, torture | 3 Comments »

Operation Phoenix Rises Again: Why Bradley Manning and Wikileaks Acted in Support of American Values

Posted by Charles II on March 6, 2013

Operation Phoenix was the US terror operation in Vietnam. Repression in Latin America in the 1980s followed the same playbook. And now, Iraq:

Via Atrios, The Guardian’s Mona Mahmood, Maggie O’Kane, Chavala Madlena and Teresa Smith:

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq, that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele, then 58, was a retired special forces veteran nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, according to an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic. After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the membership of the Special police commandos was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups like the Badr brigades.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman (now 59) worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding. Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq between 2003 – 2005, and kept returning to the country through 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.

“Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee,” claimed al-Samari , who has for the first time talked in detail about the US role in the brutal interrogation units. “Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.”

The Guardian/BBC Arabic investigation was sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by the police commandos across Iraq. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years after he pleaded guilty to leaking the documents.


The pattern in Iraq provides an eerie parallel to the well-documented human rights abuses committed by US-advised and funded paramilitary squads in Central America in the 1980s.

Are electric shocks to the genitals and pulling out fingernails what this country stands for, what it means when it talks about “freedom?” Bradley Manning’s defense is that he acted to release the documents he did because he believed that to do otherwise would be to follow unlawful orders. If we do not accept torture as an American value, why is Bradley Manning in prison?

The answer is pretty clear: our government does regards torture as perfectly acceptable.

Posted in Iraq war, torture, Wikileaks | Comments Off

We officially recognize as torture treatment that is accepted as normal in our jails

Posted by Charles II on April 9, 2012

Scott Horton:

Just as the Florence decision [saying it was ok for a man who was unjustly arrested to be stripsearched] was being prepared, the Department of Defense released a previously classified training manual used to prepare American pilots for resistance to foreign governments that might use illegal and immoral techniques to render them cooperative. Key in this manual are the precise practices highlighted in Florence. Body-cavity searches are performed, it explains, to make the prisoner “feel uncomfortable and degraded.” Forced nudity and invasion of the body make the prisoner feel helpless, by removing all items that provide the prisoner with psychological support. In other words, the strip search is an essential step in efforts to destroy an individual’s sense of self-confidence, well-being, and even his or her identity. The value of this tool has been recognized by authoritarian governments around the world, and now, thanks to the Roberts Court, it will belong to the standard jailhouse repertoire in the United States.

The definition of torture includes

“…any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as … intimidating or coercing him or a third person…”

Posted in Supreme Court, torture | Comments Off

They were warned (so they tried to destroy the evidence of having been warned): the torture memos

Posted by Charles II on April 4, 2012

George Washington University’s National Security Archive:

The State Department today released a February 2006 internal memo from the Department’s then-counselor opposing Justice Department authorization for “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the CIA.

According to Zelikow’s accounts, he authored the memo in an attempt to counter the Bush administration’s dubious claim that CIA could still practice “enhanced interrogation” on enemy combatants despite the president’s December 2005 signing into law of the McCain Amendment, which, in Zelikow’s words, “extended the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment to all conduct worldwide.”

Posted in torture | 3 Comments »

In which Senator Carl Levin loses his mind

Posted by Charles II on November 29, 2011

I long ago accepted that most of the people in Washington had lost their minds and the rest were a bit wobbly on reality. I did not think that Carl Levin would be one of them. But read this and see if you don’t think that he has lost all sense of proportion. Also note that one Senator is standing up for sanity. From DemocracyNow:

AMY GOODMAN: The Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on a Pentagon spending bill that could usher in a radical expansion of indefinite detention under the U.S. government. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act would authorize the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial. The measure would effectively extend the definition of what’s considered the U.S. military’s battlefield to anywhere in the world, even the United States. The measure’s authors, Democratic Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, have been campaigning for its passage in a bipartisan effort. But, the White House has issued a veto threat with backing from top officials including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James clapper, an FBI Director Robert Mueller. The measure was inserted into the full military spending bill after the Armed Services Committee quietly approved it without a single public hearing. Now Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set Wednesday as a procedural vote day to advance the legislation. For more we’re joined by Daphne Eviatar, Senior Associate with the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First. On Monday, Human Rights First released a letter from 26 retired military leaders urging the Senate to vote against the measure as well as against a separate provision that would repeal the executive order banning torture. Daphne Eviatar joins us in the studio today. Welcome to Democracy Now!. Explain exactly what this legislation is about.

DAPHNE EVIATAR: OK, first of all, the legislation is 680 pages long, and so one reason this has been able to get through so quietly is that the controversial provisions [Amendment 1107] are just three or four provisions within this huge package. The ones that we’re particularly concerned about, are for—-specifically the one you mentioned about creating a system of indefinite military detention within the United States by statute…

DAPHNE EVIATAR: … another very controversial provision in the bill and what the administration has particularly objected to, is the mandatory military custody provision which would say anyone suspected of terrorism in any way connected to Al Qaeda would have to be put into military custody. So, the government wouldn’t even have the option. So, all these FBI investigations that are thwarting terrorist attacks and local police investigations, immediately that would have to be turned over to the U.S. military, and that would become a military action here in the United States, on U.S. soil.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the [Mark, not Tom] Udall Amendment?

DAPHNE EVIATAR: The Udall Amendment would basically table this.

AMY GOODMAN: Who are the military leaders who have signed on to the letter that you released this week?

DAPHNE EVIATAR: Those are retired generals and admirals, very senior people. Many of the same people who stood behind President Obama when he signed an executive order on his second day in office banning the use of torture and closing the CIA’s secret prisons. So many of those same people are saying, you know what, this is not a good idea.

DAPHNE EVIATAR: … the third provision, which I didn’t have a chance to talk about is just that it extends the transfer restrictions. It means you can’t transfer anyone out of Guantanamo. And the worst thing, and this is also something very few people have realized, but, Secretary Panetta mentioned this recently, is it would prevent the transfer of detainees out of Bagram and Afghanistan. So, we have about 3000 detainees being detained indefinitely in Afghanistan at the Bagram Air Base. Now, the U.S. wants to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. This would make it almost impossible to do that, because you wouldn’t be able to transfer these detainees to Afghanistan because Afghanistan could never meet the conditions that are set out in the bill to accept detainees from the United States.

[In addition, legislation proposed by Senator Kelly Ayotte of NH would authorize torture]

OK, so in summary: Carl Levin has proposed suspending our obligations under international treaties and the US Constitution to permit indefinite detention by the military of anyone, even a US citizen inside the United States, on the mere suspicion of being involved in terror. If your neighbor doesn’t like you and anonymously calls in saying, “She talks to people who look foreign to me,” even if those people happen to be your British exchange student, that’s enough to send you to Guantanamo. And, he wants to keep us in Afghanistan forever so that we can hang onto 3000 people at Bagram. Either that or, in effect, transfer them abroad into a gulag. And, just as a bonus, Kelly Ayotte wants to authorize torture for anyone who lands up in the Gulag Archipelago the Levin-McCain legislation would create. This despite the fact that numerous senior military commanders think it’s a bad idea.

Our military leaders do not want torture, since that would make them war criminals under existing treaties:

Our military and intelligence agencies have made clear they do not want this issue revisited. In 2009 they unanimously reported they had all the authority they needed to effectively interrogate. Responding to calls to bring back “enhanced interrogation techniques,” when he was commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan last year, General Petraeus unequivocally stated “we should not go there.”

Fortunately, the ACLU has made it easy for you to write to your state’s senators here.

Posted in civil rights, Democrats as cancer, Guantanamo, torture, totalitarianism | Comments Off

First, do no harm

Posted by Charles II on November 3, 2011

Harriett Sherwood, The Guardian:

Medical professionals in Israel are being accused of failing to document and report injuries caused by the ill-treatment and torture of detainees by security personnel in violation of their ethical code.

A report by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Public Committee Against Torture (PCAT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), claims that medical staff are also failing to report suspicion of torture and ill-treatment, returning detainees to their interrogators and passing medical information to interrogators.

The report, Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim, to be published later this month, is based on 100 cases of Palestinian detainees brought to PCAT since 2007. …

Alleged ill-treatment of detainees, some of whose cases are detailed in the 61-page report, includes beatings, being held for long periods in stress positions, hands being tightly tied with plastic cuffs, sleep deprivation and threats. Israel denies torturing or ill-treating prisoners.

An alert observer will notice that many US prisoners are also being tortured (see, for example, here). So, we cannot claim moral superiority. But still, shame on physicians in whichever country who serve the torturer by concealing his crimes.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, torture | Comments Off

US has secret prisons. It just doesn’t own or operate them.

Posted by Charles II on July 13, 2011

Jeremy Scahill of The Nation has an excellent article and interview on why we should be skeptical about the Administration’s claims to have ended torture. I should note that Scahill nowhere alleges torture–just ill-treatment and extreme isolation. But where there is no judicial oversight, abuses are sure to follow.

From the article:

Nestled in a back corner of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency. … The site… is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access. At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted “combat” operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

As part of its expanding counterterrorism program in Somalia, the CIA also uses a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, where prisoners suspected of being Shabab members or of having links to the group are held. Some of the prisoners have been snatched off the streets of Kenya and rendered by plane to Mogadishu. While the underground prison is officially run by the Somali NSA, US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners.

This is not what I voted for in November, 2008. It doesn’t matter whether this is part of the US government or whether the operations have been outsourced to Somali contractors for deniability. It’s wrong.

Posted in Africa, CIA, torture | 1 Comment »

Why Going After WikiLeaks Is Wrong

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 19, 2010

The US Government’s vicious attacks against WikiLeaks and its allies (an attack that includes the psychological undermining of PFC Bradley Manning, treatment that won’t get him to provide true and accurate information but will eventually destroy him mentally) only reinforces for observers the deep and searing hypocrisy of the US preaching on freedom, democracy and transparency to people it doesn’t like (such as the Iranian government) while allowing the hostile coup takeovers of countries like Honduras by people who are against democracy, freedom and transparency, and show that by their eagerness to kill thousands upon thousands of their own people.

It was already laughable, in light of what was already known about America’s foreign policy, for Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman to blather about how important it was for Iran, a nation they hate and want to destroy, to respect internet and other freedoms. Now that the US’ true attitudes towards freedom, democracy and transparency have been revealed for all to see, the wildly intemperate scorpionlike reaction of Clinton, Lieberman, Biden and most every other prominent American politician or government official just reinforces what we all knew.

Posted in torture | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Haiti Hypocrisy Watch PLUS DoJ Hypocrisy Watch

Posted by Charles II on February 2, 2010

A triple-header here. On DemocracyNow, Scott Horton describes how Eric Holder gave the Yoo/Bybee report, which had already neen delayed by ca. four years, to subordinated David Margolis knowing that Margolis would “rip the guts out of it.” Newsweek has reported that Margolis has done just that, trivializing the charges against Yoo and Bybee of having taken stenography from the White House to retroactively justify war crimes as “poor judgment.” The report has been delayed, Horton thinks, specifically to hinder a civil suit against Yoo and Bybee but that the heat finally got to be too much. Meanwhile, a Spanish court may indict the pair under international law.

Also, a report by Anand Gopal that secret prisons, run by Special Forces, are still using torture and are still denying access to the Red Cross. So, it’s not like the Yoo/Bybee memo is not of current interest. Gopal does say that night raids, in which suspects are kidnapped and deposited into black sites began declining in frequency several years ago and are less common now.

DemocracyNow:

It’s been three weeks since Haiti was hit by the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated much of the country. The official death toll stands at 170,000 and is expected to rise. Many more were left injured and homeless. A full 21 days after the quake, survivors are still desperate to receive aid, with food, water and medical relief not reaching the areas it is needed most.

In the Haitian town of Gressier, residents blocked roads and seized trucks on Friday to protest the lack of aid. Residents said that trucks with humanitarian assistance have driven through the town on the road to Léogâne, but have not stopped to distribute any in Gressier.

The interview with Bill Quigley is definitely worth listening to.

Posted in Afghanistan, BushCo malfeasance, Busheviks, Haiti, hypocrites, torture | 1 Comment »

“Though you intended it for harm, God turned it to good”(Gen 50:20).

Posted by Charles II on December 30, 2009

The more I read about the unsuccessful Detroit pentaerythritol bombing, the more I wonder if the hand of God was not in it, helping to heal the grievances that drive terrorism. It has often been said that the greatest recruiting devices Al Qaida could have wished for were Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo: Muslims, many innocent of any crime, being tortured by a nation that claims that it stands for equal treatment under the law and never tortures.

Two of the men who are believed to be the planners of the bombing, Muhammad Al-Oufi and Sa’eed Al-Shihri were released apparently by the Bush administration to the Saudi authorities in 2007. The Saudis tried religious re-programming, a not-unreasonable approach for cult members not known to have committed a crime (Perhaps Americans should try it on members of C-Street, like Senator John Ensign and Governor Mark Sanford). Now, the Saudi Gazette (which I would guess is directed toward western opinion) reports :

[Al-Oufi's mother] said Al-Oufi has reneged on his promise and betrayed the trust of the government and the people who love him. “He broke the heart of his wife and children. I don’t think she will recover from this shock,” she said.

Al-Oufi’s sister said she hoped he would realize the trauma of the family. “Our father is bedridden ever since the news of his son’s detention in Guantanamo broke out. My poor father was already crestfallen with the death of my brother Sami who was killed in Afghanistan about eight years ago. Muhammad’s detention in Guantanamo further aggravated his health.”

She said Muhammad had sworn by God that he would never do anything against his country and people.

It is these kinds of conversations and opinions which undermine terrorism. Here the enemy had paroled suspects (again, not known to have committed any crime) on their word of honor that they would drop the religious extremism that wound them up in Guantanamo– and they lied. Is the shock and sorrow and regret real, or directed at avoiding government harassment and maybe assuaging western opinion? I would guess some of all.

The right wants to convince people that if we just lock ‘em all up, innocent or guilty, we’ll be safe. This is, of course, insane. Whenever we are holding someone that we don’t believe is guilty, we should release him. It’s the right thing to do. It means we don’t waste resources– we certainly can’t lock up a billion potential opponents just because of their religion or ethnicity. And releasing the innocent prevents our opponents from exploiting grievances for their recruiting purposes.

But there will be mistakes made, as it appears the Bush Administration may have done in the cases of al-Oufi and al-Shihri. As a consequence, American lives may be threatened, as they were in Detroit, or even lost. Even so, I think the Bushies did right– way too late, and maybe with the wrong people.

As the saying goes, freedom isn’t free. Part of the price is in national defense. But part of the price is defending civil liberties, even when it means we can’t enjoy the perfect security of the police state.
Even dangerous terrorists have wives and sisters and mothers and fathers and children… and it’s their opinion and the opinion of people like them that matters in a conflict like this. If and when their family members turn against terrorism, then their cause is lost.

This is how the hand of God works, almost invisibly, perhaps by sparing a would-be killer from his own suicidal folly, so that not only he but others like him can repent of it. And this, too, is how conflicts wind down, as we all come to see the folly of war.

Posted in terrorism, torture | 4 Comments »

 
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