Tag Archives: iraq

Torturing for peace…

… over bags of milk powder. Or just because…

Remember when the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were made out to be the bad brutes, and the British troops were said to take the smarter, more humane approach?

These are some of the pictures of British “interrogation techniques” that the Spanish daily El País features on its website, referring to a report in The Guardian, but that one doesn’t have the same juicy pictures El País has put online.

Just a few impressions of how noble a cause the Brits have been fighting in Iraq (and who knows where else.)

Marck Cooley (25) threatening to punch an Iraqi prisoner, who in turn is tied up with a coarse net, presumably to induce “anxiety and disorientation,” as recommended by the manual.

And a similar position, this time with the added bonus of having British army Darren Larkin standing on top of the alleged milk powder thief.

Apparently this has been said to be a British soldier simulating a kick into the bundle that is supposed to be another British soldier. I have my doubts. Make that “you have got to be shitting me.” It’s the same bloke as in the other two pictures.

Speaking of shitting someone… There’s no better way of getting your suspect to open up to you than if you make him poke out his bum for another to ‘hit him from the back’, all the while you’re taking pictures (and cracking one off with the other hand, presumably.) These and similar scenes of prisoners forced to perform oral sex on each other testify to the kind of freedom and human rights the troops are dedicated to.

And now watch Tony Blair in his post-office self-congratulatory pensiveness looking back onto all the right choices he’s made. This isn’t exclusively about the wars, but one wonders how a man can stand behind all this and still show his mug on the telly. Not that others weren’t doing the same, but isn’t Tony Blair the official envoy to the Middle East peace process on behalf of The Quartet (US, Russia, EU and UN)? Excellent choice, gentlemen. Who could top his kind of street cred?

Tony Blair talks to Sir David Frost in “Frost over the World”

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Jews in the Garden of Eden

A wonderful eye-opener on the history of Jews in Mesopotamia/Iraq. Great because from today’s perspective it would seem like Jews never had a place anywhere except in Israel, not to mention Arab countries. Well, the opposite is true. Babylon may have been the place the Jewish elite was kept in exile, but it is also the place where the Talmud was written, and where, for long stretches of time, Jews and Arabs and whonot lived side by side in prosperity.

The exodus of Mesopotamia’s Jews, who traced their origins back to the destruction of the first temple in 587 BCE, would have seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the 20th century. As Violette Shamash writes, Babylon was the home of ‘our patriarch Abraham Abinou’; the place where the Talmud was written and Jewish law codified. And if distant memories weren’t enough to bind Jews to their ancestral home, something more tangible did: security and the promise of a good life. Of all the Jewish communities in the Middle East, the Mesopotamian Jews were the most integrated, the most Arabised, the most prosperous. Not only had they freely practised their faith under the Ottomans, they had become the country’s most powerful economic group. And there was hardly an area of Mesopotamian culture on which Jews had not left their imprint, from the style of music performed in Baghdad’s cafés to the wafting amba, a mango pickle that Baghdadi Jews working in India brought home with them…

When Balfour announced Britain’s support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, leaving Mesopotamia for the kibbutz was the furthest thing from the minds of Baghdad’s Jews. ‘The announcement aroused no interest in Mesopotamia, nor did it leave a ripple on the surface of local political thought in Baghdad,’ Arnold Wilson, the civil commissioner in Baghdad, reported to the Foreign Office after a meeting with a group of Iraqi Jewish notables. Palestine, they had said, ‘is a poor country and Jerusalem a bad town to live in’:

Compared with Palestine, Mesopotamia was paradise. This is the Garden of Eden, said one; it is from this country that Adam was driven forth – give us a good government and we will make this country flourish. For us Mesopotamia is a home, a national home to which the Jews of Bombay and Persia and Turkey will be glad to come.

Adam Shatz: Leaving Paradise

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The lessons not learned…

So when Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is pushed out of office over a disagreement regarding the next national poll, the US tries its best to not intervene à la the old “crush political unrest in Central America” mode. And it sounds so damn good when Obama breaks with the old tradition of treating South America like its own personal banana plantation. After decades of US-backed dictators from Guatemala to Chile, after counterinsurgency (Contras in Nicaragua, paramilitary troops in Colombia, for instance) and the years of blood and violence these armed factions caused among the civilian population, can we finally believe in a better, less bully-ish United States?

I think not. Cause at the same time, Iraq seems to be at the same point where South America was a few decades ago. And the US are getting ready to make the same horrible mistakes that South America still hasn’t fully recovered from in the 20th century.

The Nation’s Shane Bauer reports about Iraq’s US-trained Special Forces, the ISOF (Iraq Special Operations Forces) which roam the land free of any checks and balances. They are under the exclusive order of the Iraqi Prime Minister and his sponsors, the US.

Basically, in the last years, the US Special Forces have recruited and trained several thousands of troops, equipped with the latest in military gadgetry, and given a very long leash to do the dirty work not even the US troops would carry out, especially when they’re not there anymore. Because, quite handily, as the US army is pulling out by the end of next year, these trigger-happy killers will stay back and continue the “counter-terrorist” work, i.e. carry out random arrests, shootings, torture and abductions. – Hey, somebody’s got to keep that place tidy, right? Trouble is, they have nobody to answer to, except their king sun-like commander. In other words, the US done made themselves another army of lawless and highly-equipped henchmen who are already much like a giant personal guard for their commander or whoever buys his way into the command-line. The political opposition and even Iraqi police and regular army dare not even testify against the cruel and arbitrary violence the ISOF apply to anyone standing in their way. It doesn’t take a political analyst to guess who’s going to be the main target of these shadow-armies.

Our lesson from South America’s paramilitary troops is that once they’re settled in with a powerful sponsor, it’s nearly impossible to send them back to a civilian life. After all, who is going to tell them so? And who’s going to investigate into the massacres, robberies etc. they are free to commit?

Iraq’s New Death Squad
By Shane Bauer

The Iraq Special Operations Forces (ISOF) is probably the largest special forces outfit ever built by the United States, and it is free of many of the controls that most governments employ to rein in such lethal forces. The project started in the deserts of Jordan just after the Americans took Baghdad in April 2003. There, the US Army’s Special Forces, or Green Berets, trained mostly 18-year-old Iraqis with no prior military experience. The resulting brigade was a Green Beret’s dream come true: a deadly, elite, covert unit, fully fitted with American equipment, that would operate for years under US command and be unaccountable to Iraqi ministries and the normal political process.

According to Congressional records, the ISOF has grown into nine battalions, which extend to four regional “commando bases” across Iraq. By December, each will be complete with its own “intelligence infusion cell,” which will operate independently of Iraq’s other intelligence networks. The ISOF is at least 4,564 operatives strong, making it approximately the size of the US Army’s own Special Forces in Iraq. Congressional records indicate that there are plans to double the ISOF over the next “several years.” […]

When the US Special Forces began the slow transfer of the ISOF to Iraqi control in April 2007, they didn’t put it under the command of the Defense Ministry or the Interior Ministry, bodies that normally control similar special forces the world over. Instead, the Americans pressured the Iraqi government to create a new minister-level office called the Counter-Terrorism Bureau. Established by a directive from Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, the CTB answers directly to him and commands the ISOF independently of the police and army. According to Maliki’s directive, the Iraqi Parliament has no influence over the ISOF and knows little about its mission. US Special Forces operatives like Carstens have largely overseen the bureau. Carstens says this independent chain of command “might be the perfect structure” for counterterrorism worldwide.

Although the force is officially controlled by the Iraqi government, popular perception in Baghdad is that the ISOF–the dirty brigade–is a covert, all-Iraqi branch of the US military. That reading isn’t far from the truth. The US Special Forces are still closely involved with every level of the ISOF, from planning and carrying out missions to deciding tactics and creating policy.

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What happened in Abu Ghraib stays in Abu Ghraib…

So Obama is concerned if the public found out just how low US “techniques” for the treatment of alleged criminals go, the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan might be at a greater risk of getting attacked?

Obama defends abuse photos U-Turn (English)

What exactly is he withholding that we haven’t seen yet? So there’s still worse than those pictures made public by US troops themselves?

abughraibleashLyndie England on her morning walk…

Does withholding the pictures at this point really make sense if “Abu Ghraib” has already become the international yardstick for how wrong a military mission can go? Why is Obama defending his predecessors’ blunders, gross negligence and outright crimes against humanity?

Besides, if you haven’t seen the photos, how about a re-enactment to help your imagination?

As Seymour Hersh reports…

Torture at Abu Ghraib – The New Yorker

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee. […]

The photographs tell it all. In one, Private England, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, is giving a jaunty thumbs-up sign and pointing at the genitals of a young Iraqi, who is naked except for a sandbag over his head, as he masturbates. Three other hooded and naked Iraqi prisoners are shown, hands reflexively crossed over their genitals. A fifth prisoner has his hands at his sides. In another, England stands arm in arm with Specialist Graner; both are grinning and giving the thumbs-up behind a cluster of perhaps seven naked Iraqis, knees bent, piled clumsily on top of each other in a pyramid. There is another photograph of a cluster of naked prisoners, again piled in a pyramid. Near them stands Graner, smiling, his arms crossed; a woman soldier stands in front of him, bending over, and she, too, is smiling. Then, there is another cluster of hooded bodies, with a female soldier standing in front, taking photographs. Yet another photograph shows a kneeling, naked, unhooded male prisoner, head momentarily turned away from the camera, posed to make it appear that he is performing oral sex on another male prisoner, who is naked and hooded. […]

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