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Quantico Brig Staff Mostly Ignored Recommendations Medical Staff Made on Bradley Manning

3:33 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A Freedom of Information Act request for documents on accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks Pfc. Bradley Manning’s treatment at Quantico Marine brig, filed by POLITICO, reveals on multiple occasions Manning was recommended for removal from “prevention of injury” (POI) status by psychiatrists and psychologists but was not removed.

Chief Warrant Officer-5 Abel Galaviz’s inquiry, launched as a result of Manning’s Article 138 complaint found “brig personnel ignored the Navy Corrections Manual when they kept Manning on suicide watch in August 2010 and January 2011 for several days after doctors said it was inappropriate. (Article 138 is a right soldiers have under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that any soldier can use to request redress if a soldier believes his or herself has been wronged.)

Galaviz also found, in regards to suicide risk status that “on two occasions, 6 August 2010 and 18 January 2011, a medical officer determined that suicide risk status was no longer warranted and the brig staff did not immediately take PFC Manning off the suicide risk status.” He recommended, “Brig staff remove confinees from suicide risk immediately upon receiving a medical officer’s evaluation.”

The February inquiry conducted in February, however, found that “Chief Warrant Officer 4 Averhart did not abuse his discretion when he classified PFC Manning as a maximum custody detainee.”

Col. Daniel Choike issued a memo in March in response to the inquiry findings. As Josh Gerstein notes he “embraced” much of the inquiry findings but rejected the “only critique of Manning’s treatment.

“There is no requirement … that requires an immediate removal from suicide risk after the [brig’s] mental health care provider or medical officer recommends it,” Choike wrote to Manning. The delays in removing Manning from suicide watch were “reasonable in light of all the information available to the [brig] commander and applicable … procedures,” Choike concluded. “I do not concur with [Galaviz] that an ‘immediate move’ is required.”

“The memos revealed today by POLITICO confirm that military officials repeatedly violated their own standards of detainee treatment while PFC Manning was held in abusive pre-trial confinement conditions at the Quantico brig. Commander Averhart should never have been put in a position to reject the military’s investigation into his own unprofessional conduct,” said Kevin Zeese, an attorney with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “Justice demands that the charges against PFC Manning be dropped, because the government has acknowledged that they have abused the rights of a soldier in their custody.”

Co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network said, “President Obama can no longer hide behind his subordinates in claiming that the treatment of PFC Manning has met ‘basic standards’ of conduct. Clearly, by the government’s own admission, the treatment of PFC Manning has fallen far short of the standards demanded by the Constitution.”

(photo: Jail cell depicted in Anonymous video message on Manning’s Quantico detention)

Choike’s memo shows an adept ability to play the game of semantics. Choike explains how Manning was not held in solitary confinement:

Maximum custody detainees are held in a specific area in the MCBQ PCF. Because the MCBQ PCF is a pretrial confinement-only facility with limited staff, all detainees are held in single cells within a 30-cell block known as “Special Quarters 1.” This cell block is further broken down into specific areas depending on custody classification or other reasons requiring segregation. Maximum custody detainees are held in cells nearest the guard post to facilitate observation. Additionally, prisoners not classified as maximum custody, but requiring additional supervision and attention may also be moved to cells near the guard post. PFC Manning is being held in Special Quarters 1 with all other detainees; he is not in solitary confinement (MCBQ PCF does not have solitary confinement and reference (b) does not recognize a solitary confinement category.) Consistent with his custody classification, PFC Manning is held in the area in Special Quarters 1 reserved for maximum custody detainees.

Manning may not have been held in what the military considers to be “solitary confinement,” but when he was at Quantico Marine Brig from July 2010 to April  of this year, he was, during his time given a POI status and suicide risk classification, which meant he was required to remain in his cell 24 hours of the day. It required his clothing to be removed except for his underwear and that his prescription eyeglasses be taken away from him. And, this is how his lawyer David Coombs described his detention in January of this year:

For 23 hours per day, he will sit in his cell. The guards will check on him every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning will be required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see him clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure that he is okay. He will receive each of his meals in his cell. He will not be allowed to have a pillow or sheets. He will not be allowed to have any personal items in his cell. He will only be allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read. The book or magazine will be taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep. He will be prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop. He will receive one hour of exercise outside of his cell daily. The guards will take him to an empty room and allow him to walk. He will usually just walk in figure eights around the room until his hour is complete. When he goes to sleep, he will be required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.

The military may not think they were subjecting Manning to solitary confinement or that other soldiers in the brig are subjected to solitary confinement because that is not what they call it or because they specifically have not built a solitary confinement section, but the reality is that Manning (and others) in the prison are held in single cells with little to no contact for 23 hours of the day.

David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network and one of the few people who visited Manning when he was at Quantico, spoke out multiple times, while Manning was held at Quantico. He recently said in an appearance on Democracy Now! this week:

…As time progressed, around December 2010, he had deteriorated to a state where it was very hard to have a conversation with him, where he seemed utterly exhausted, fatigued all the time. And then January 2011 was the point at which he was the worst. It was almost impossible to really talk to him at all, and he looked—he looked like someone who had been held in solitary confinement for some months, you can imagine. It was this odd emotional roller coaster for me, because not only is this my friend, right, who’s being held in confinement, but also you’re actually watching him undergo this deterioration over time, like watching your friend waste away. And I think that seeing him like that and seeing this being an ongoing process was my main motivation in continuing activism for him, going into early this year.

Additionally, this is Choike’s description of how prisoners are given custody statuses:

Custody classification is guided by reference (b) and requires an objective custody classification process. Classification criteria relevant to this case include the seriousness of the offense/potential length of confinement. [REDACTED] Reference (b) makes it clear that the listed factors are not all inclusive and the classification authority may consider other relevant factors in determining the proper custody classification. He was also on suicide risk. These other relevant factors included national security concerns and protection of classified material. [emphasis added]

The commander notes he was facing “serious charges alleging multiple compromises of classified information.” After a redacted portion of text, he says an evaluation of charges and other factors supported a maximum custody classification. It’s noted that serious charges were pending. Yet, Choike also claims that the maximum custody status or suicide risk classifications were not retribution or punishment for his alleged crimes.

This seems semantic too. How could someone alleged to have released classified information to an organization like WikiLeaks need such classification? That doesn’t appear to suggest danger. It seems entirely unnecessary for that to be material to his classification and, when one thinks about it, the classifications seem like a public relations decision. There are people in this country in positions of power that would not have liked it if in his first months in the brig he had not been given these designations.

How does one signal to members of the military not to release information to WikiLeaks or any organization like it? How does one ensure that soldiers do not talk to the press or release photos, videos or documents on their deployment in war zones? Give someone who is accused of releasing information a classification status that is questionable and subject him to a detention regime that could put the fear in soldiers and deter them from taking a similar action.

The released documents contain multiple redactions that are made under FOIA exemption (b)6, which means “Personal Information Affecting an Individual’s Privacy.” As the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer details, “This exemption permits the government to withhold all information about individuals in ‘personnel and medical files and similar files’ when the disclosure of such information ‘would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.’ This exemption cannot be invoked to withhold from a requester information pertaining to the requester.”

Former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley is right. The Marine Corps should have never had custody of Manning. He should have always been in the hands of the Army. Perhaps, what Manning’s defense should work to obtain is a full inquiry on why he was transferred into Marine custody and not Army custody.

That Manning is now at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas is just another reason to be suspicious of how he was handled at Quantico. That he is now able to move among prisoners in Leavenworth, wear normal prison clothing and have access to a communal area means should lead one to continue doubt the Marine brig’s assertion that he was treated like all the other prisoners. The fact that he was such a high-profile prisoner makes it virtually impossible that the guards and staff treated him like all other prisoners.

*

This week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has condemned the US for seeking to impose restrictions on a planned visit with Manning and even prevent him from meeting with Manning. Thus far, he has not met with Manning and now questions whether the US will allow him to visit any of the country’s detainees.

Wired magazine has also finally released what they claim to be the entire chat logs, which they sat on and concealed months after Manning was arrested even though the contents were extremely pertinent to understanding what Manning was thinking when he allegedly chose to release material to WikiLeaks.

With those two news items in mind, along with revelations from this psych evaluation, I give Lt. Dan Choi the last word:

…The chat logs of his conversations are reminiscent of some of the same feelings that go unvoiced by the vast majority of soldiers: questioning the purpose of our mission when politics has mired us in prisons of moral turpitude. That Bradley voiced his concerns proves he was the least unstable and most moral of all the members of his team. That he happens to be gay or transgender gives our community a new hero who brings great credit to the moral force of our people in this world….

…Bradley Manning is a soldier of great honor and we must stand with him in his journey to bring an abiding justice for our world. Those who fear the controversy of truth do not know the responsibility of moral living. Their moral silence is a moral disorder…

 

The Conscience & Agency of Bradley Manning

6:01 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

With previously unreleased instant message chat logs, Steve Fishman for New York Magazine published a feature story July 3, 2011, that further examined the accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning. It looked at his family life before going to Iraq, his time in Baghdad and plans to use the military to pay for college and his current relationship with his father. The tidbit that drew the most attention, and will likely continue to draw attention, was the section of Fishman’s article allegedly detailing Manning’s interest in pursuing a sex change.

Ethan McCord, former specialist in the US Army and Iraq War veteran, who can be seen rescuing children in the “Collateral Murder” video allegedly released by Manning to WikiLeaks, put together a response to Fishman’s article. He sent it to New York Magazine and they agreed to publish portions by Monday, July 11.

The magazine published the portions late on Sunday, July 10—a few sentences where he directly mentioned Manning.

…The chat logs at the center of the story “add depth to the picture that’s emerged of Manning as a psychologically damaged ‘mess of a child,’” Adrian Chen added on Gawker. But others felt the profile, which dealt extensively with Manning’s gender-questioning, focused on the personal at the expense of the political. “If PFC Bradley Manning did what he is accused of doing, then it is clear—from chat logs that have been attributed to him—that his decision was motivated by conscience and political agency,” writes Ethan McCord, a former Army specialist whose unit was depicted in WikiLeaks’s first big scoop, the video “Collateral Murder.” “Unfortunately, Steve Fishman’s article erases Manning’s political agency. By focusing so heavily on Manning’s personal life, Fishman removes politics from a story that has everything to do with politics.” Read the rest of this entry →

Lt. Dan Choi: Proud to Stand Shoulder to Shoulder with Bradley Manning

9:52 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

While at Netroots Nation 2011, I had the privilege of speaking to Lieutenant Dan Choi, who served in the US Army infantry, went to war in Iraq and graduated from West Point with a degree in Arabic.

Choi was kicked out of the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) about one year ago. At Netroots Nation, Choi celebrated his one year “anniversary or birthday” as a civilian. He also noted that despite DADT being repealed there are still soldiers getting kicked out of the military for being gay.

The US government is putting Lt. Dan Choi on trial August 29 for “demonstrating in front of the White House in November of last year.” Choi refuses to plead guilty or accept any kind of deal.

“I believe this Administration is making a grave mistake in limiting the areas, times and manners that free speech should be allowed,” declares Choi. And adds nobody should be intimidated into not protesting.

I spoke to Choi the day after he had gone with Hamsher to support Bradley Manning Support Network co-founder David House, as he went before a federal grand jury investigating individuals supportive of alleged military whistleblower Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks. Choi says House is an “American hero” and “our situations are exactly the same.”

Whenever a government tries to stifle the truth by censoring the people, we sometimes take a look at the people. And that’s what’s going on with Bradley Manning. People have been trying to scapegoat him as someone who is crazy or someone who should not have gone to war but I think that Bradley Manning is a great soldier who did something as far as morality.

This was supposedly one of the first times Choi had expressed solidarity with Pfc. Manning so openly on camera.

He continues:

What the true mandate of the American servant of society is he embodied through his act. It’s no different from what Daniel Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers. And, I wonder what this president is about to do to this new hero of American patriotism. He is not antiwar. I want to make sure that everybody knows that. From the things that I’ve heard this soldier signed up because he believed in this country and when he saw things that were unbelievable and were being perpetrated by this country, he wasn’t attacking this country. He was trying to teach this country what this mandate of service really was. So, I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with anybody who speaks up against injustice, against war crimes, against torture and against the reprobate actions of any kind of reprobate government that tries to tell them that power belongs to the powerful.

Choi recently visited Moscow to participate in the Moscow Pride parade and stand in solidarity with gays in Russia. I ask him the United States has some effect on how countries around the world treat their own people, particularly gay people.

The US is a “horrible role model not only on gay rights but progress,” replies Choi.

He doesn’t fault the government entirely for failing to be a good role model and concludes, “I blame our courage inadequacy. The only ingredient that is missing nowadays [among activists] is the willingness to stick to your guns ’til the very day that you achieve what you set out to accomplish in the first place.”

Obama’s Latest Speech on Afghanistan: Bridging the Say/Do Gap to Finally End the War

6:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Those who read President Barack Obama’s speech will likely be reading to find hints of when the conflict might finally come to an end. Support for a pullout from Afghanistan is at an all-time high, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. But, there is little reason to put much stock in the fact that ten thousand troops will be leaving Afghanistan this summer. Withdrawing a number of troops around July of 2011 was always part of a plan, a way of deftly managing public opinion.

When Obama went ahead and added thirty thousand troops, he knew, as shown in Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars he had two years with the public. He understood the perils of escalating a war, as retired Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry,  retired Gen. James L. Jones and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute all offered a level of dissent against Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. And, Obama allegedly told Vice President Joe Biden in private to oppose a big troop buildup but could not stand up to military brass. In the end, though, he was able to set a withdrawal timetable of ending the war by 2014.

Like any speech on war by US presidents these days, it began by re-opening the wounds of 9/11, by forcing all Americans to recall the fear or pain they experienced that day. It transitioned into a history of how America had gotten to this point—why America invaded Afghanistan, how it got “sidetracked” in Iraq (sorry for  your luck Iraqis) and why America committed to a surge in Afghanistan about a year and a half ago. It proceeded to outline the plans and goals for the next stage of the mission and then concluded with pure, pathological American exceptionalist fallacies.

A key difference between this speech and the surge speech is during the speech there weren’t any US State Embassy cables or war logs from WikiLeaks to reference and call “bullshit” when something was said with an err of confidence that seemed preposterous. Fast forward to June 2011, with plenty of information on US diplomacy and US military operations in Afghanistan, there is ample reason to doubt the assertions President Obama makes in his speech.

When Obama announced the surge, he committed the US to refocusing on al Qaeda, reversing the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan security forces to defend their own country. According to Obama, the US is meeting these goals or objectives and so the country will be able to “recover” the surge and be back around the level of troops that were in Afghanistan when President George W. Bush left office.

One week ago, Jonathan Owen for The Independent reported, “Not a single Afghan police or army unit is capable of maintaining law and order in the war-torn country without the support of coalition forces.” Owen cited a US Department of Defense report on Afghanistan from February showing “out of more than 400 army and police units in Afghanistan” none are capable of operation without assistance from coalition forces. And, Owen also highlighted the fact that twenty-five billion US dollars have been used to train and equip Afghan forces thus far and Lieutenant-General William B. Caldwell does not think the “training mission” can be complete until 2017.

A cable from December 2009 titled, “Karzai Looks Forward,” features this exchange on the Afghan army and police:

Turning his attention to the Afghan National Army (ANA), Karzai announced that the ANA leadership should lead simpler, more spartan lives. He criticized widespread reports of ANA generals driving expensive cars and NDS reports that only no officers had died in battles with insurgents, only ANA soldiers died (the latter account was disputed by Minister of Defense Wardak). Reflecting on ANA recruitment, Karzai asked why so few Afghans from the provinces of Zabul, Ghazni, Helmand, Herat, and Farah enlist in the ANA. He bemoaned the fact that only drug users join the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Khandahar and Helmand Provinces. Upon hearing the latter, Minister of Interior Affairs Atmar interjected that a partially completed personnel asset inventory conducted in Khandahar and Helmand turned up the surprisingly good news that only 20 percent of ANP personnel were drug users. [emphasis added]

These days, what percentage of Afghan police are drug users or addicts? How is that impacting operations? More importantly, do private contractors like DynCorp leaders still “pimp little boys to stoned Afghan cops”?

A June 2009 cable shows the DynCorp leaders pimping Afghani children to the police. At bacha bazis or “boy-play” parties eight to fifteen-year-old boys are “made to put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women’s clothing.” The boys dance seductively to older men. Their “services” are auctioned and men will sometimes purchase them outright. And, the State Department understands that bacha bazis are a “widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape.”

Purchasing services from a child is illegal under Sharia law and the civil code in Afghanistan. The party mentioned in the cable led to the arrest of two Afghan National Police. Are “dancing boys” still a problem for law enforcement in the country?

What about this story from the cables on Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd saying the situation “scares the hell out of me”? Or the fact that he found France and Germany’s contribution to fighting the Taliban to be “organizing folk dancing festivals” and the comment from Australian Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Ric Smith that the mission was like a “wobbly three-legged stool”?

Obama’s speech singled out the Afghan national police, but what about the unconventional forces the United States has been using? A November 2009 cable indicates the Afghan government and local communities were using “unconventional security forces. These “local and private bodies” were proliferating because of the lack of “public confidence in the police.”

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar had a plan to use a “traditional militia concept.”

Locals who are loyal to the government and register their existing arms could serve as police auxiliaries, receiving food and even some pay from MOI in return for helping the police. Atmar’s longest-serving advisor, Habib Wayand, explained that the Minister prefers to encourage small groups linked to local shuras, rather than large militias that might bite back or prove loyal to commanders with their own agendas.

Exactly, how are these militias impacting operations now? And, also, a prime proposal from Atmar in February 2010 involved sending twelve to fifteen thousand police to train in Jordan at a facility constructed for training Iraqi police. There is little indication this proposal has been accepted by US forces tasked with training Afghanis to keep their country “secure.” Atmar also reported a “need to train 50,000 per year to meet expansion targets and offset attrition” but the maximum training capacity was around 30,000 trainees.

Less than 100 al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. It seems true that the goal of refocusing on al Qaeda has been achieved but why did US forces ever have to “refocus” on al Qaeda? Was there ever a point when they weren’t going after al Qaeda?

The Afghan War Logs released by WikiLeaks almost one year ago revealed the Pakistan spy service was meeting directly with Taliban for “secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.” To what extent do these operations persist?

The released war logs also showed the US military covered up “a reported surface-to-air missile strike by the Taliban that shot down a Chinook helicopter over Helmand in 2007 and killed seven soldiers, including a British military photographer.” There may be political leaders affiliated with the Taliban who are willing to talk, but how does the US intend to halt the fighters who are committed to fighting US forces?

The questions are not raised because this author supports the war effort and wishes to see it continue. Doubts are made evident because President Obama appears to be certain that it will all work out by 2014. It seems quite clear that this speech is part of a ploy to con Americans into believing the mission is ending and will end as the timetable being discussed suggests yet it appears it could take another half decade to train forces or further sort out a political solution. In the meantime, if the US is being consistent, wouldn’t forces have to remain to prevent a vacuum from forming?

Furthermore, the conclusion of Obama’s speech shows that what is at stake for America, as for any war, is its credibility and reputation. Obama, whose weapon of choice in governance is often compromise, lays out two choices, in the same way he laid out two choices when working to pass health reform. The are not necessarily the only two choices America has but they are two choices, which Obama averages to get a solution that will make possible a balancing act between the military and political establishment and the citizens of the United States.

He presents one of the choices as isolationism or retreat. This means no longer being an “anchor for global security,” letting despots and terrorists flood the earth and create anarchy. The other choice he presents is overextension, struggling to confront every evil that can be found in the world. (Absurdly, he does not hint at the reality that the US already tries to go after all evil or at least exploits this as a pretext for many, many operations.)

Upon establishing these poles, he plants a stake in at what he deems “the center.” The solution is not necessarily right or wrong but “pragmatic.” The answer is not to deploy large armies when targeted operations can be used. When innocents are being slaughtered, the US can rally international action (e.g. Libya). Somehow, the final stages of Afghanistan are part of this “centered course.”

The disenthralled approach obfuscates the past and recasts the future. US-assassination squads operating with “kill-and-capture lists,” the use of drones, intelligence agents awash in data they don’t know what to do with, and the killing of civilians going unreported, all revealed in the Afghanistan War Logs, can continue as tools so long as they are employed properly. Brutal night raids, which have led Afghanis in villages to fear US forces more than the Taliban, become legitimized. The brutality of war cast as “pragmatism” suggests what is unfolding is part of a measured approach and whether those who get bombed at weddings care about “pragmatism” versus “realism or “idealism,” that does not matter.

The most fraudulent part is the mythological portrayal of America that Obama presents:

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

The sophistry of these words dares one to ask whether engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition, invoking state secrets to prevent transparency, denying habeas corpus to detainees in prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist), holding detainees in detention indefinitely, asserting the right to target and kill US civilians bypass due process or employing military commissions—“kangaroo courts”—is what nations that adhere to the rule of law and respect the rights of people do.

The portrait of America presented and its underhandedness obscures how America has typically been at war with those in the country who engage in acts of self-determination, who dissent against power.

Search warrants, grand jury subpoenas, indictments, trials, spying, infiltration, entrapment, raids, and severe limits on demonstrations with bystanders, protesters and journalists all subject to arrest at demonstrations are all omitted. Obama cannot sell America as a model country for freedom if that paragraph contains hints at abuses of the state or Executive.

Thus, the next stage of the Afghanistan war, officially launched by this speech, is benign compared to the pathological rot in the military and political establishment, which conditions someone to be able to stand before a world and utter such misrepresentations.

Gareth Porter, investigative journalist, says this morning on Democracy Now!, “There is an effort here to create a narrative that as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding. When in fact, nothing of this sort is happening…Clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That is not going to come to an end.” And, about 70,000 US military forces along with thousands of contractors would remain in the country after 2012.

Thanks to transparency, technology and the courage of whistleblowers, citizens in this country can begin to bridge the gap between what leaders say and do in such a way that has never been possible before in this country’s history. Information released by outlets like WikiLeaks can be used to confront speeches like this one head on and work to bridge the say/do gap. It’s relentlessly working to bridge this gap that will force leaders into a corner that will eventually lead to deception being exposed and the war coming to an end.

Pakistan Papers: US Drones Violate Sovereignty, Fuel Anti-American Sentiment

10:07 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

ImageA new batch of US State Embassy cables released specifically dealing with the US relationship with Pakistan draw attention to a number of Pakistani political issues, the military aid the US has been giving Pakistan, the deployment of US troops in Pakistan and the growing conflict between India and Pakistan, which the US appears to be gaming to advance its own foreign policy.

The release is the product of a partnership between the Dawn Media Group and WikiLeaks that began in the last week of April of this year. Around 4,000 cables are to be released over the next few weeks.

There are numerous ways to begin to examine the cables. This post covers the use of drone technology in Pakistan.

Kayani Asks US to Loan Pakistan Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs)

The cable getting attention is 08ISLAMABAD609 sent out by Anne W. Patterson on February 11, 2008. It details a meeting between Pakistan General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, and US CENTCOM Commander and Admiral William J. Fallon on January 22. During the meeting, the two discuss expanding military assistance and training along with improving cooperation in Afghanistan.

Kayani asks Fallon to assist in providing “continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area.” Fallon is unable to offer the “assets to support his request” but offers Joint Tactical Aircraft Controller (JTAC) support for Pakistani aircraft. Kayani does not find this offer politically acceptable.

Fallon offers JTAC training for Pakistani troops. A brief discussion on the complexities of “building a night-capable, air-to-ground capability in the Pakistan army” ends with Kayani conceding such a “big project” could not be undertaken. But, during the meeting, Kayani does emphasize the need for tactical SIGINT capability for Pakistan’s military aircraft. Though not interested in Predator drones, he would like to procure Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and asks if the US could “grant or loan them to Pakistan.”

In December 2009, just as US President Barack Obama delivered a speech on sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, US officials also began to commit to more use of drones in Pakistan. The New York Times’s Scott Shane covered this development reporting officials were “talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time—a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas.”

(Note, the controversy was not that covert military operations were being considered in a country where war powers had not been authorized with congressional approval. The issue was that an area outside of areas where strikes had been much more acceptable was being considered. The Timesalso uses the CIA as a cover for military actions like drone strikes. See the headline for this quote, “CIA to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan.” But this isn’t covert. The US is committing military personnel to the country. This is obvious in the cables.)

Zardari Welcomes “Acquisition of Modern Technology”

A cable on a congressional delegation led by US Senator Patrick Leahy (09ISLAMABAD1123) reveals President Asif Ali Zardari in May of 2009 requested the US use drone technology so his forces could take out the militants. He “welcome the acquisition of modern technology” believing having drones would make it more difficult for media or anyone else to criticize the actions the Army might take to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Another cable (08ISLAMABAD3677) focuses on the reaction in Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of what was believed to be the first such attack in the settled areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, outside of the tribal areas. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani sharply condemned the strike within “Pakistan proper,” which US diplomat Anne Patterson describes as a “watershed event.”

The strikes were “intolerable” to Gilani. In Pakistani Parliament. Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticized the Pakistan government’s “inability to stop alleged U.S. incursion and asked that the matter be taken to the United Nations.”

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal cited the Bannu attack as evidence that the GOP must have a secret agreement with the US. Other parliamentarians claimed that they have seen drones hovering over Swat, and warned that future attacks could spread to Peshawar and Islamabad.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman also made an impassioned speech during the Assembly session against alleged U.S. action in Bannu calling it “U.S. aggression and violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity.” Rehman’s party will hold a secret meeting to discuss their future actions in response to the continued drone strikes, according to contacts within the party. The Bannu attack is particularly significant for Fazlur because he represents the Bannu district.

Interestingly, “vehemently secular” Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Deputy Parliamentary Leader Haider Rizvi claimed he would not be able to handle the growing popular and political pressure from these attacks and declared the Pakistan people “had not made their peace with drone attacks in the tribal areas and a shift into mainland Pakistan was even more inflammatory.”

“Friendly countries are being asked to help Pakistan in convincing the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Chairman of the Joint Committee Raza Rabbani. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was “concerned” about the US attacks but didn’t intervene because he found it to be a “bilateral issue.”

Pakistani Prime Minister: “We Will Hit Targets Ourselves”

Gilani denies there is a secret government agreement between the US and Pakistan, which may be mostly true. Right after the election of Obama, one of the released cables (08ISLAMABAD3586) shows Gilani pressed the US government to “share all credible, actionable threat information.” He declared, “We will hit the targets ourselves,”

…Gilani added that drone strikes not only violated Pakistani sovereignty, but also fed anti-U.S. sentiment, making harder his own public case that the struggle against extremists was “Pakistan’s war.” Instead, there was popular pressure on elected officials like himself to forcefully respond to alleged U.S. border incursions, which were “an embarrassment” for the GOP. The “trust gap” should be filled with joint actions, he argued, and, while he might be criticized for such bilateral cooperation, he believed he could effectively convince the public that those targeted were responsible for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the killing of innocents at schools.

Months later, in June 2009 cable09ISLAMABAD1438, Gilani again expressed his frustration while meeting with National Security Advisor James Jones:

[Gilani] thanked the U.S. for its assistance while stating he needed “a battalion of helicopters” to fight the extremists now, and in the future. He also made repeated pleas for drones to be “put in Pakistan’s hands” so that Pakistan would own the issue and drone attacks (including collateral damage) would not provoke anti-americanism. Zardari said the technology behind them was not cutting-edge and said he has raised the issue with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Inter Services Public Relations spokesman in Pakistan said right in the immediate aftermath of the cable release, “There has only been sharing of technical intelligence in some areas” and “no armed drone attack support has ever been asked for operations which have been conducted using own resources.”

“American Image” Reaching a New Low

Consistent with current US operations in Pakistan, a US drone strike destroyed a vehicle in Pakistan in the North Waziristan district on the Afghan border, an area believed to be occupied by Taliban. Local officials said “six suspected militants” were killed.

A Washington Pew Research Center survey conducted recently shows that 11 percent of Pakistanis view the US and President Obama favorably. The survey, taken a week prior to the killing of Osama bin Laden, is likely a bit higher than the country’s current approval rating especially since that and multiple drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan since the assassination.

Dawn Media Group concludes the “American image” is reaching new lows but that has never bothered Washington. The media organization notes US congressman would like a review of the US commitment to providing aid in the “war on terror” before more aid is given to the country, which has received at least $20 billion so far.

Shyema Sajjad for Dawn writes, “What’s the most stirring thing about the revelations WikiLeaks has brought to us today? Nothing? Or everything? For starters, quite a few people reading the cables right now must be gloating and inwardly thinking or outwardly bragging. ‘Hah! I knew it all along!’ Of course you did. Didn’t we all?”

Sajjad finds the key travesty revealed in the cables to be the fact that Pakistani leaders and the military have “more faith in the American government than they do in themselves.” He adds, “Talk of sovereignty today is a farce. Sovereignty is not sacred and whether it’s Kayani who pretends to uphold it or whether it is Gilani, fact remains that we are secretly (well, not so much anymore) selling it every single day.”

A United Nations report in June 2010 on “Extrajudicial Executions” suggested the drones targeting militants “violate straightforward legal rules.”

The refusal by States who conduct targeted killings to provide transparency about their policy violates the international framework that limits the unlawful use of legal force against individuals. A lack of disclosure gives States a virtual and impermissible licence to kill.

At the time of the release, 134 drone attacks had been conducted.

A study published in February 2010 by Peter Bergen and Katherin Tiedemann on behalf of the New America Foundation detailed US drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004-2010. The study found “114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to the present have killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, of whom around 550 to 850 were described as militants in reliable press accounts.” This means the “true civilian fatality rate since 2004” was 32 percent.

The study concluded “US drone strikes don’t seem to have had any great effect on the Taliban’s ability to mount operations in Pakistan or Afghanistan or to deter potential Western recruits, and they no longer have the element of surprise.” And, “their unpopularity with the Pakistani public and their value as a recruiting tool for extremist groups may have ultimately increased the appeal of the Taliban and al Qaeda, undermining the Pakistani state. This is more disturbing than almost anything that could happen in Afghanistan, given that Pakistan has dozens of nuclear weapons and about six times the population.

 

The Guantanamo Files: What Can Be Found in a File

10:55 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

McClatchy Newspapers writes “the US military set up a human intelligence laboratory at Guantanamo,” the Washington Post details new classified military documents obtained by the “anti-secrecy organization” present “new details” of detainees whereabouts on Sept 11, 2001 and afterward and the Daily Telegraph reports that it has exposed “America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists.”

Months after news organizations reported the Guantanamo Files might be WikiLeaks’ next release, the files are now posted on the WikiLeaks website. Nearly 800 documents, memoranda from Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the combined force in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.

The memoranda do not detail torture or how detainees were interrogated. The reports from between 2002 and 2008 show how JTF-GTMO justified when to keep detainees and also when it chose to release detainees. In cases of detainees “released,” that detainee’s “transfer” is detailed to “the custody of his own government or that of some othergovernment.”

The reports represent not just JTF-GTMO but, according to WikiLeaks, they also represent the Criminal Investigation Task Force created by the Department of Defense to conduct interrogations and the Behavioral Science Teams (BSCTs) consisting of psychologists who had “a major say in “exploitation” of [detainees] in interrogations.”

The Washington Post, the McClatchy Company, El Pais, the Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Aftonbladet,La Repubblica, L’Espresso, and Andy Worthington are each listed as partners. (The New York Times has coverage of the documents but is not listed as a partner and neither is NPR.)

What is a Guantanamo file?

First, the detainee’s personal information is listed. That information includes what the US considers to be the detainee’s name, aliases, place and date of birth, citizenship. The information also includes an Internment Serial Number (ISN).

The second section describes detainees’ mental health or physical health issues.

The third section is a “JTF-GTMO Assessment.” This section is where recommendations on whether a detainee should be held or released can be found. “Executive Summaries” in this section provide explanation for why a detainee should continue to be detained or released. The section denotes whether the detainee is a low, medium or high-risk detainee. And, under “Summary of Changes,” whether there have been changes in the information provided since the last report on the detainee is listed.

The fourth section is the detainee’s own testimony detailing the detainee’s background and how the detainee was seized and captured.

The fifth section is “capture information.” This section may be one of the more interesting sections in the released reports. Here one can see “Reasons for Transfer.” These are alleged reasons for the detainee’s transfer. WikiLeaks, however, notes there is reason to be skeptical:

The reason that [these reasons are] unconvincing is because, as former interrogator Chris Mackey (a pseudonym) explained in his book The Interrogators, the US high command, based in Camp Doha, Kuwait, stipulated that every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be transferred to Guantánamo — and that there were no exceptions; in other words, the “Reasons for transfer” were grafted on afterwards, as an attempt to justify the largely random rounding-up of prisoners.

A sixth section contains an analysis from the Task Force explaining whether the Force finds the detainee’s testimony to be convincing.

The seventh section presents an assessment detailing how much of a threat the detainee happens to be. This is another one of the more interesting sections of the reports because the “Reasons for Continued Detention” often come from statements from fellow detainees in Guantanamo or secret prisons run by the CIA where torture or other forms of coercion have been used to get detainees to talk. In some cases, detainees were offered rewards such as better treatment if they made statements on detainees in US military custody.

This section also looks at the “detainee’s conduct” and how a detainee has behaved citing “disciplinary infractions.”

The eighth section contains a “Detainee Intelligence Value Assessment.” This information suggests areas of intelligence that could be further “exploited.”

Finally, the “EC Status,” yet another interesting section, details whether the detainee is to still be considered an “enemy combatant” or not. Based on findings from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, just 38 out of 558 detainees that came before tribunals held in 2004-05 were determined to no longer be enemy combatants.

Now, as of 12:15 AM ET on April 25, sixty-seven detainee reports have been posted on the WikiLeaks website.

This is WikiLeaks first new leak since Cablegate. Presumably, WikiLeaks will continue to post US State Embassy Cables to its website as it releases these files.

*I will have coverage all week of the Guantanamo Files. Check back regularly for updates.

Director of New Film on ‘Collateral Murder’: It’s a ‘Perfect Microcosm” of Iraq War

11:08 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A new short documentary called, “Incident in New Baghdad,” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Sunday. The film tells the story of Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord, a soldier who appears in the “Collateral Murder” video rescuing two wounded children.

The director, James Spione, attended an event at Revolution Books in NYC on April 21, 2011. He talks about his initial reaction to the video WikiLeaks released and how he was horrified. But, then he began to pay attention to the media response and found it was pretty much the same on every channel.

It didn’t matter if it was Fox, ABC, CNN, CBS or MSNBC. It really didn’t matter. For the most part, each media channel’s response was “let’s find two people with opinions we know in advance and we’ll have them argue about this and they’ll say things we already know they are going to say and we’ll say that we were journalists and we did our job. And, it’s bullshit.”

Spione was doing research on the Internet and he found an interview with McCord. He thought it was interesting that he had actually been on the scene and wondered why the media was not talking to him about the incident. So, he decided to fly out and spend some days in Wichita, Kansas meeting McCord, shooting and doing an extensive interview for the film.

This is Spione’s “first political film.” He says he has done fiction films and in the last ten years has become more and more involved in documentary filmmaking. With this short film, he hopes to make it into a longer film that will look at the incidents from different points of view—the point of view of Iraqis, dissenting views from his company that was on the scene—because, as he concludes, the “Collateral Murder” incident is a “perfect microcosm” of the Iraq War.

Also, McCord, who was in NYC to attend the festival premiere of the film with director James Spione, recounted the incident and I shot and edited a clip of him speaking forTheNation.com.

Ethan McCord: ‘Collateral Murder’ Just One Incident of Many

2:18 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A new short documentary called, “Incident in New Baghdad,” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Sunday. The film tells the story of Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord, a soldier who appears in the “Collateral Murder” video rescuing two wounded children.

In NYC to promote the film with director James Spione, McCord recounted the incident and I shot and edited a clip of him speaking for TheNation.com.

McCord describes what it was like that day to see the civilians maimed by the Apache helicopter. He talks about rescuing a girl and boy from a van. Their father, who was trying to help two journalists killed in the incident, was dead.

His platoon leader told him to stop worrying about thos “m’fin kids” and pull security. When he was back at the Forward Operating Base, he was having trouble coping with what happened, he says. He wanted to see mental health. He was laughed at by a superior officer and told to “suck it up” and get the sand out of his vagina.

For what it’s worth, McCord thinks the weapons the civilians had out were probably for show, meaning they saw the journalists and wanted to get their picture taken and be made famous.

The “Collateral Murder” incident was “one incident of many,” McCord concludes. Things like that happen on a daily basis in Iraq and you can see from that incident, he says, we should not be in Iraq.

Iraq War Logs Reveal US Chose “El Salvador Option” to Secure Iraq

7:04 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Screenshot taken from an al Jazeera English news report on Wikileaks and the US turning a blind eye to torture

More than 390,000 field reports known as the Iraq War Logs, leaked by Wikileaks, show the regular use of abuse, brutality and torture used on Iraqis by Iraqi Police and Iraqi Security Forces. The routine violations of human rights by the police and security forces, which US and Coalition forces have trained to takeover Iraq’s security as they withdraw, raise questions about the nature of conduct and operations between the US, Coalition, and the Iraqi forces.

“The El Salvador Option”

Reports show that police or security forces were likely given the task of detention and interrogation and the US forces were to transfer detainees into custody and perhaps check in regularly to figure out if any of the detainees were truly terrorists or not. And, other than those duties, it appears police and security forces had carte blanche to do as they please with Iraqi detainees.

ON 02JUN06 ___ SUBMITTED A SPOT REPORT TO THE ___ Military Police ___ OF A DETAINEE E ___ ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE BY THE CAPTURING UNIT. A ___ SUBMITTED THE FOLLOWING REPORT TO THE ___ Military Police ___: F Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ WAS INTERROGATED AT THE CAMP ___ THEATER ___ FACILITY ON 01JUN06. DURING THE INTERROGATION, Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ STATED THAT AFTER BEING BLINDFOLDED AND PLACED INTO A HMMWV, HE WAS KICKED IN THE GROIN AND PUNCHED IN THE LEFT SIDE OF HIS FACE BY A MARINE. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ ALSO STATED THAT AFTER HIS ARRIVAL AT THE FIRST BASE, HE WAS PUNCHED BY MEMBERS OF THE IRAQI ARMY AND AN ___. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ HAD NO SPECIFIC DETAILS ABOUT THE IRAQI ARMY MEMBERS OR THE ___, ONLY THAT HE WAS BLINDFOLDED AND RECOGNIZED THEIR ACCENTS. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ THEN STATED THAT UPON HIS ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND BASE, HE WAS CONTINUALLY KICKED IN THE GROIN FOR AN UNSPECIFIED AMOUNT OF TIME BY AN IRAQI OFFICER DRESSED IN A .___. SOLDIER E ___ UNIFORM. AFTER WHICH HE WAS PLACED ON THE GROUND FACE DOWN BY A ___, HAD HIS PANTS AND UNDERWEAR TAKEN OFF, AND HAD COLD WATER POURED ON HIS BARE BOTTOM. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ ALSO STATED HE WAS FORCED TO HOLD BOTTLES OF WATER IN FRONT OF HIM FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ COULD NOT PROVIDE ANY SPECIFIC INFORMATION PERTAINING TO HIS ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ COULD NOT PROVIDE NAMES OR DESCRIPTIONS OF INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED. G ["ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE ___ BY ___ IVO FALLUJAH: ___ INJ/DAMAGE", May 18, 2006][emphasis added]

Some reports show how US forces helped give police or security forces the benefit of the doubt, like for example this chilling report involving one detainee that was sodomized with a bottle and brutally beaten. The US soldier filing the report chose to question whether abuse took place by citing a “motorcycle incident” the Iraqi police officer involved claimed the detainee experienced:

AT 191400C OCT ___ IN ___ (ZONE ___) IVO ___ NPTT ___ THAT – ___ BDE SPTT – ___ BDE SPTT CONDUCTED A ROUTINE INSPECTION OF THE – ___ [WOLF] BDE DETENTION FACILITY AND IDENTIFIED ONE PROBABLE CASE OF DETAINEE ABUSE. THE ALLEGED BEATING TOOK PLACE UNDER INTERROGATION AT THE — ___ HQ ON THE EVENING OF ___ OCT ___. THE DETAINEE WAS BLINDFOLDED AND IS UNABLE TO IDENTIFY THE OFFENDERS. THE DETAINEE CLAIMED HE WAS BEATEN ABOUT THE FEET AND LEGS WITH A BLUNT OBJECT, AND PUNCHED IN THE FACE AND ___. HE CLAIMED THAT ELECTRICITY WAS USED ON HIS FEET AND GENITALS, AND HE WAS ALSO [SODOMIZED] WITH A WATER BOTTLE. — ___ PERSONNEL CLAIMED IT WAS CAUSED BY THE DETAINEE FALLING FROM HIS MOTORCYCLE WHILE HE WAS BEING CHASED BY THE ___ . THE DETAINEE DISPLAYED GREAT DIFFICULTY WALKING WITH BRUISING AND SWELLING ON THE SOLES OF BOTH FEET. THE DETAINEE HAD LOCALIZED CUTS AND BRUISING ON BOTH LEGS (PRIMARILY THE LEFT), THE LEFT ARM, AND THE LEFT CHIN. THERE WERE NO INJURIES VISIBLE ON THE DETAINEE E ___ HANDS, UPPER ARMS, TORSO, UPPER LEGS, OR BUTTOCKS. HIS CLOTHING WAS NOT RIPPED OR DAMAGED, BUT DID DISPLAY BLOOD STAINS. THE NPTT E ___ INITIAL ASSESSMENT WAS THAT THE DETAINEE E ___ WOUNDS WERE NOT CONSISTENT WITH THAT FROM A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT, AND QUESTIONED THE DETAINEE IN FRONT OF THE JAIL GUARDS. THE DETAINEE MAINTAINED THAT HE WAS SIMPLY DRIVING SLOWLY AT THE TIME. WHEN ASKED IF HIS MOTORCYCLE TIPPED TO THE RIGHT OR LEFT, THE DETAINEE TOOK AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF TIME TO ANSWER …THE SPTT REMOVED THE DETAINEE TO A PRIVATE ROOM FOR FURTHER EXAMINATION. THE RESULTS OF THIS INCIDENT INCLUDE…” ["*ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE ___ BY -___ NPTT IN ___ (ZONE ): ___ INJ/DAMAGE", October 19, 2006][emphasis added]

A Washington Post editorial published in 2005 provides context to the individual field reports.:

“OF ALL THE bloodshed in Iraq, none may be more disturbing than the campaign of torture and murder being conducted by U.S.-trained government police forces. Reports last week in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times chronicled how Iraqi Interior Ministry commando and police units have been infiltrated by two Shiite militias, which have been conducting ethnic cleansing and rounding up Sunnis suspected of supporting the insurgency. Hundreds of bodies have been appearing along roadsides and in garbage dumps, some with acid burns or with holes drilled in them. According to the searing account by Solomon Moore of the Los Angeles Times, “the Baghdad morgue reports that dozens of bodies arrive at the same time on a weekly basis, including scores of corpses with wrists bound by police handcuffs.” The reports followed a raid two weeks ago by U.S. troops on a clandestine Baghdad prison run by the Interior Ministry, where some 170 men, most of them Sunni and most of them starved or tortured, were found”"

It shows that what journalist Nir Rosen called on Democracy Now! the “El Salvador Option” was likely employed. Iraqi death squads or police and security forces were used to cleanse areas of Iraq and beat sections of communities into submission through the terrorism of possible brutality. “The Wolf Brigade” The logs show that a “Wolf Battalion” or “Wolf Brigade” existed in Iraq, which went around terrorizing insurgents. The death squad was known for its brutality, known well enough that interrogators threatened detainees with the prospect of being turned over to the squad. For example:

“DURING THE INTERROGATION PROCESS THE ___ THREATENED THE SUBJECT DETAINEE THAT HE WOULD NEVER SEE HIS FAMILY AGAIN AND WOULD BE SENT TO THE WOLF BATTALION WHERE HE WOULD BE SUBJECT TO ALL THE PAIN AND AGONY THAT THE WOLF BATTALION IS KNOWN TO EXACT UPON ITS DETAINEES.” [December 14, 2005]

The Guardian details the Wolf Brigade:

“The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge of them was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.”

What also is apparent is the fact that Col. James Steele was involved in the training of forces, forces that operated like the Wolf Brigade. Journalist Dahr Jamail wrote about Col. Steele a few years ago:

“Retired Col. James Steele, who served as adviser on Iraqi security forces to then-U.S. ambassador John Negroponte, supervised the training of these forces. Steele was commander of the U.S. military advisory group in El Salvador 1984-86, while Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to nearby Honduras 1981-85. Negroponte was accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights in 1994. The Commission reported the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political workers.”

Col. Steele played a role in emboldening the El Salvador death squads. It can be surmised that he played the same role in Iraq. Additionally, details in log entries from 2004 and 2005, according to The Guardian , indicate US infantry raids led to the handing over of detainees to the Wolf Brigade for “further questioning” multiple times. And, New York Times Writer is cited explaining, “US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing.”

Torture Chambers Discovered

The field reports detail discoveries of “torture chambers” or, in some cases, “torture houses.” One update in a field report reads, “UPDATE: /-___ REPORTS A TORTURE CHAMBER WAS DISCOVERED AT MC ___ CONSISTING OF A CHAINSAW AND OTHER VARIOUS DEVICES.” Another report details:

AT 1715C, -___ In support of OPERATION STEEL CURTAIN DISCOVERED A POSSIBLE AIF SAFE HOUSE ( ) ___.5KM ___ OF NEW ___. THE HOUSE CONTAINED ___-COALITION MATERIALS, Improvised Explosive Device MAKING MATERIALS, ___ TANKS AND BATTERIES. -___ ALSO FOUND Improvised Explosive Device MAKING MATERIALS BEHIND THE HOUSE AND A SHACK SUSPECTED BEING USED AS A TORTURE CHAMBER . Sensitive Site Exploitation CONTINUES At this time. NO CASUALTIES OR DAMAGES REPORTED. ["SAFE HOUSE FOUND/CLEARED BY - ___ OF NEW : ___ INJ/DAMAGE", November 14, 2005][emphasis added]

And, the following report describes forces finding a torture chamber. The report does not mention whether it is believed to be a remnant of Saddam Hussein’s regime or not.

LATE REPORT: Task force -___ IN DISCOVERED TORTURE HOUSE NE OF ___ At 051230C NOV , /-___ IN (Task force -___ IN) discovered a torture house In the vicinity of (___ MC ), ___.5km NE of ___, while conducting clearing operations In support of Operation ___ II ( ___). The unit was guided by a local civilian who stated that he was a torture victim and had personal knowledge of the whereabouts of both the ___ and the torture chamber. /-___ conducted Sensitive Site Exploitation and found an underground facility containing a secure chain possibly used for captives, a tube running to the surface possibly used to supply air and food and multiple cots were discovered. Due to the inability of the ___ Assault Force (___) to leave a permanent present force behind to secure the torture chamber site and prevent the enemy from ___ the facility to conduct further torture and murder/intimidation activities, Explosive Ordnance Disposal [bomb defuser] destroyed the facility with a controlled detonation without incurring any collateral damage to existing structures surrounding the site. Additionally, while clearing an adjacent building In the vicinity of ( ), /-___ detained (___) suspected enemy ( ___). The (___) detainee was identified by (___) local national sources as a ___ and Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device maker. The detainee also had a small cache in his possession consisting of (___) AK-, (___) rounds ___ ammunition, and multiple AK-___ magazines. All personnel were wearing required ___. There were no Coalition Forces, ISF or civilian casualties or damages to equipment. ["(FRIENDLY ACTION) SMALL UNIT ACTIONS RPT TF -___ IN : ___ AIF DET", November 5, 2007]

Frago 242

Fragmentary Order 242 or Frago 242, which allowed for US soldiers to report detainee abuse or torture, and, if the case did not involve US or Coalition forces, give the matter no further attention or investigation. In other words, it became standard protocol to be complicit in allowing Iraqi police or security forces to carry out abuse and torture when policing and securing the country against Al Qaeda, insurgents or terrorism. An incident June 19, 2005, demonstrates how “Frago 242″ was invoked. The report has a description of the incident involving the detainee.

“ON ___ JUN ___ FROM FOB ISKANDARIYAH. ___ WAS APPREHENDED BY /___ ACR ___ ON ___ MAY ___ DURING A RAID AND TURNED THE DETAINEE OVER TO ___ IRAQI POLICE. ___ MADE A STATEMENT SAYING HE WAS HIT BY THE IRAQI POLICE ON HIS EARS, BACK, ARMS AND LEGS. ___ HAD VISIBLE BRUISING AND ___ ON HIS BACK. THERE WERE NO COALITION FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE INCIDENT. ___. DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT INVOLVING DETAINEE ___: DETAINEE , ___, WAS RECEIVED AT ___ ON ___ JUN . ___ WAS TRANSPORTED TO ___ BY /___ BCT FOB ISKANDARIYAH. ___ WAS BROUGHT TO ___ WITH BRUISES TO HIS LEFT SHOULDER, FOREHEAD, AND LEFT BUTTOCKS. HE WAS MEDICALLY EXAMINED BY ___ WHO FOUND ___ HAD HIS LEFT SHOULDER, FOREHEAD AND LEFT BUTTOCKS BEATEN BY IRAQI POLICE OFFICERS IN THEIR POLICE STATION AT , ___. NO COALITION FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE INCIDENT”

But, above the description of the incident is the note, “PER ___ FRAGO ___, ONLY AN INITIAL REPORT ___ FOR APPARENT ___ VIOLATIONS BY OR AGAINST ALLIED MILITARY OR CIVILIAN PERSONNEL NOT INVOLVING US FORCES PERSONNEL. NO FURTHER INVESTIGATION ___ UNLESS DIRECTED BY ___.” The nature of recorded reports of Iraqi on Iraqi brutality often detail beatings of arms, legs, back, buttocks, etc. Some involve much more grotesque tactics:

” A CF party, including a ___ went to the Ar ___ Police Department iot investigate a statement that was done by an ___. He mentioned that detainees are tortured in prison by IZ Police Officers. Using a hygienic inspection as an excuse, ___ detainees were searched and questioned without IZP attendance. The conclusion taken after this is that drug or medicine users are being tortured specially during dark hours. Methods they are using are to blindfold the detainee and hang them upside down on their feet iot hit them on their foot soles. Also the use of an electrical device is confirmed. This subject ___ with senior IZP Officers iot stop this, also ___ inspections ___. ["A CF party, including a ___ went to the Ar ___ Police Department iot investigate a statement that was done by an ___. He mentioned that detainees are tortured in prison by IZ ___" February 10, 2004] ON 29MAY05 AN MNF-___ APPROVED JOINT INTERROGATION PROJECT WITH THE IRAQI POLICE IN MOSUL REVEALED EVIDENCE OF PRIOR TORTURE/ABUSE ON 3X LOCAL NATIONALS THAT HAD BEEN CAPTURED APPROX. ___. EXAMINATION OF THE DETAINEES SHOWED LACERATIONS ON WRISTS FROM HANDCUFFS, BRUISING ON THE BACK AND THIGHS, BRUISING ON FACE. DETAINEES ALLEGE THAT THEY WERE BEATEN BY POLICE WITH CABLE ON THE BACK, CHEST AND FACE; HUNG BY THE WRISTS AND FORCED TO CONFESS TO TERRORIST ACTS. ["SUSPECTED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IPS IVO MOSUL: ___ DETAINEES ALLEGE ABUSE", May 29, 2005]

Conclusion

Channel 4 News reported that the Bureau of Investigative Jounralsm (TBIJ) and Channel 4 Dispatches found “between 2004 and 2009 32,563 civilians were murdered” and that of the numerous unidentified corpses, which coalition forces often found in the Tigris River, “10,871 civilians were shot in the head, 439 were decapitated and up to 164 were recorded as children.” The news organization suggested these “murders” were largely a result of “sectarian death squads.”

TBIJ and Dispatches also found “over 300 classified reports in the Iraq war logs alleging abuse by coalition forces on Iraqi prisoners after the Abu Ghraib scandal” and that, in the time span covered by the logs, “some 180,000 Iraqis were imprisoned” or appoximately “one in 50 of the adult male population of Iraq” were imprisoned. And, “more than 1,300 individual cases of torture and abuse carried out by Iraqis on Iraqi prisoners at police stations and army bases, which imply that coalition forces either witnessed or reported on themselves” occurred.

In a good society, revelations of torture and the use of police or security forces, which operate like death squads, should be cause for judicial inquiry or independent investigation. It should be a kind of teaching moment for leaders and an opportunity for soul searching among citizens who decide whether this is the nature of foreign policy they want their government to promote (and, since a number of citizens likely bought the idea that Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein, it’s even more important to be outraged that US and coalition forces were and likely continue to be complicit in allowing brutal tactics Saddam Hussein was known for using on Iraqis).

Britain and other countries with coalition forces are taking the Iraq War Logs seriously. Inquiries into how torture became systematic and how indisciriminate attacks or murder became part of the war and occupation will be opened. That the Obama Administration and the US government will likely be absent from any inquiry into the war to investigate crimes committed is a bitter indication of how a Washington Consensus or set of rules holds government captive. What power the UN or other countries have over the US to compel investigations of war crimes is unknown. But, one imagines that the US is headed down a road where it will ultimately find itself alone spending blood and treasure on wars of occupation that few countries choose to support.

The burden on US citizens will increase. More and more US soldiers will be asked to torture and kill and commit indiscriminate attacks. The Iraq War Logs spell out the years between 2004 and 2009 and how the war effort was managed. They also suggest what 2009 to 2013 could be like. With a permanent occupation of 50,000 troops and tens of thousands of contractors still there, there will be more bloodshed and more clear violations of the so-called Laws of War.

Obama Declares Combat Mission in Iraq Over: What Nation Will America “Liberate” and “Rebuild” Next?

8:59 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

President Obama appeared before the American people to formally declare the combat mission was officially over in Iraq. Obama discussed what Iraqis must do now that the U.S. has ended combat operations, re-affirmed America’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan, and ended with a focus on the economy and restoring the middle class in America.

In a much more reverential and eloquent manner (with no bombastic stunt like landing on a military aircraft carrier to lead us into the speech), Obama delivered a “Mission Accomplished” speech. It was an address to the troops to assert and assure them, their families, and those who had little stake in this war that this war was a war worth fighting.

Left out was how President Bush sent troops into a war based on the lies that Iraq posed an imminent threat to this country, how his administration falsely claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and how the administration successfully propagandized and convinced a large portion of the population that Saddam Hussein and others in Iraq played a role in the attacks of 9/11. Instead, Obama discussed the beginning of war by stating: “Seven-and-a-half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.”

Why should it be any surprise that “unity” was tested as a result of an administration that failed to convincingly lie an entire nation into war sell this nation a war because some people used logic, reasoning and asked questions to decide whether to support this military adventure or not and when they discovered the Bush Administration was fabricating a case for war they began to seriously doubt the motives for invading Iraq?

At one point, President Obama appeared to suggest that Americans with grievances toward former President George W. Bush should suspend those grievances. He said he was “mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home.” He admitted he disagreed with Bush on the Iraq War but asserted that “Bush’s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment” to American security was unflinching, which essentially meant liberals or progressives should forgive and possibly forget any sort of criminal or negligent activity Bush participated in that took place as a result of the Iraq War (like the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent when her husband, Joseph Wilson, failed to come back with “evidence” to promote the idea that Iraq had WMDs).

Obama explained “there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis` future.” What about the patriots who did not support the wars and found that they could not support the troops because if they did they would essentially be supporting the mission and reinforcing the idea that the war should continue? Those people are probably not to be considered; it’s likely they aren’t to be regarded as Real Americans.

And, Obama said, “The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead. And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.”

Americans were reminded that President Obama is just as committed to “taking the fight to the extremists” as President Bush was to “fighting the terrorists over there so we didn’t have to fight them here.” How real is this al-Qaeda “threat” really? Why does it seem like President Obama has continued former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “one-percent doctrine”—the idea that if there is a one-percent chance of something happening, that something has to be treated as it will happen? How many of us still fear the al-Qaeda boogeyman and feel that the Homeland Security-complex in this country isn’t good enough to keep us safe? How many believe continued wars are helping to keep al-Qaeda from striking at this country again?

President Obama said now a “transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security” in Iraq will take place. Americans should be weary about this transition; it is likely to not be as welcoming to the Iraqi people as President Obama would like Americans to believe.

If you ask Iraqis like Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraqis will likely tell you they view the Iraqi security forces to be more oppressive than benevolent. The U.S. trained the Iraqi army to detain Iraqis and carry out many of the tactics U.S. troops used, which consequentially made it difficult to win hearts and minds. 

If you ask Iraqis like Mohammed, freedom of organizing doesn’t exist. Collective bargaining or the privilege to organize and form unions, the freedom to participate in civil society organizations that promote democracy in Iraq—that doesn’t really exist. People who participate in unions or civil society organizations are being harassed, targeted, and, in some cases, banned. And, there is fear of continued repression because, as Human Rights Watch has reported, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison in Baghdad where prisoners have been tortured “Abu Ghraib-style.”

In order for America to legitimate the belief that Iraqis “can resolve their differences and police their streets” and “only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders,” there are a number of policies and permissions that the U.S. government granted to corporations and non-governmental organizations that need to be reversed and suspended. There are a number of policies and laws that the U.S. encouraged the Iraqi government to pass that must be repealed and entirely done away with so all Iraqi people can truly enjoy the so-called freedom troops fought to institute in Iraq.

President Obama said in his speech, “We`ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people, a belief that, out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibilities. Now it`s time to turn the page.”

The stunning aspect of this was, as Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, said on CNN after the speech, “this was President Obama speaking, not candidate Obama and not Senator Obama’ praising the idea of nation-building in Iraq.” He was praising “the idea of spreading democracy in Iraq” and “conditions-based withdrawal,” which were terms “more associated with the more hawkish elements of the Democratic Party and indeed with President George W. Bush.”

Now, America continues to act under the notion that it is capable of building nations even though it’s success in rebuilding countries like Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc has been dismal at best. The U.S. military and its leaders continue to fight a war that we are led to believe will end in the next couple of years, but it will likely have an ending similar to the end we have seen here with Iraq. Unless neoconservatives along with a band of rogue generals in the U.S. military win influence over Obama, the war will lack a decisive endpoint like this war did.

The exit of combat brigades from Iraq was, as professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army has suggested, an indication that officers came to the conclusion this outcome was likely to be as good as it would get. That’s because, according to Bacevich, the military establishment and foreign policymakers no longer believe in "military solutions." The "officer corps" have resigned themselves to the fact that true victory, in the sense that Americans understand it, is impossible; they accept the fact wars from this point on will be protracted, dirty, costly, and will from now on end in an ambiguous way if they end at all.

Such is the expectation Americans will be asked to have for the Afghanistan War. Americans will be conditioned, as they have been, to accept a permanent presence will remain in Afghanistan after the “combat mission” is over. And why should all troops come home anyway? The military is one of the best jobs programs in the nation. America cannot cut back their use of military forces now or else unemployment in this country would be much worse.

So, the question now is, where to next? How long before another theater of war is opened? The corporations and leaders who run the country will not be content if all of these wars in the “war on terror” have wound down by 2016. They will be tremendously bored. And, if the economy continues to worsen, they will increasingly propose war as a way of rejuvenating the economy.

Iraq should be a lesson not to engage in nation-building. But, it doesn’t appear America will learn it should not attempt to build nations. So, what country will America try to "liberate" and "rebuild" next?