Monday, October 25, 2010
Beyond allowing the US and the other participants in the coalition to outsource the brutalization of detainees, Frago 242 created opportunities for a perverse voyeurism, whereby US troops were permitted to watch the most gruesome abuse of people without any obligation to do anything about it.
A frago is a fragmentary order which summarises a complex requirement. This one, issued in June 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, orders coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves members of the coalition. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ.
Frago 242 appears to have been issued as part of the wider political effort to pass the management of security from the coalition to Iraqi hands. In effect, it means that the regime has been forced to change its political constitution but allowed to retain its use of torture.
The systematic viciousness of the old dictatorship when Saddam Hussein's security agencies enforced order without any regard for law continues, reinforced by the chaotic savagery of the new criminal, political and sectarian groups which have emerged since the invasion in 2003 and which have infiltrated some police and army units, using Iraq's detention cells for their private vendettas.
Hundreds of the leaked war logs reflect the fertile imagination of the torturer faced with the entirely helpless victim – bound, gagged, blindfolded and isolated – who is whipped by men in uniforms using wire cables, metal rods, rubber hoses, wooden stakes, TV antennae, plastic water pipes, engine fan belts or chains. At the torturer's whim, the logs reveal, the victim can be hung by his wrists or by his ankles; knotted up in stress positions; sexually molested or raped; tormented with hot peppers, cigarettes, acid, pliers or boiling water – and always with little fear of retribution since, far more often than not, if the Iraqi official is assaulting an Iraqi civilian, no further investigation will be required.
According to this post by lenin in 2006, the situation in Samarra was not unique:
Within the huge leaked archive is contained a batch of secret field reports from the town of Samarra. They corroborate previous allegations that the US military turned over many prisoners to the Wolf Brigade, the feared 2nd battalion of the interior ministry's special commandos.
In Samarra, the series of log entries in 2004 and 2005 describe repeated raids by US infantry, who then handed their captives over to the Wolf Brigade for further questioning. Typical entries read: All 5 detainees were turned over to Ministry of Interior for further questioning (from 29 November 2004) and The detainee was then turned over to the 2nd Ministry of Interior Commando Battalion for further questioning (30 November 2004).
The field reports chime with allegations made by New York Times writer Peter Maass, who was in Samarra at the time. He told Guardian Films: US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing, while members of the Wolf Brigade beat and tortured prisoners. The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre, he said.
An interview conducted by Maass in 2005 at the improvised prison, accompanied by the Wolf Brigade's US military adviser, Col James Steele, had been interrupted by the terrified screams of a prisoner outside, he said. Steele was reportedly previously employed as an adviser to help crush an insurgency in El Salvador.
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.
As Patrick Cockburn drily observed: Of particular interest to Iraqis, when WikiLeaks releases the rest of its hoard of documents, will be to see if there is any sign of how far US forces were involved in death squad activities from 2004.
6,000 bodies in Baghdad's mortuaries since the start of the year, and what's more, no-one believes these are the true figures from the violence in and around Baghdad as many bodies are not taken to the morgue, or are never found.
Here's the thing: the US government can openly announce its intentions. It can even be reported once in a while (albeit with a rather crude apologia bracketing the facts). Knight Ridder correspondent Yasser Salihee can die while uncovering the truth behind it. Yet somehow, invariably, it's simply taboo to mention what is richly evident. The BBC did not mention any of this either on television or on the internet. No one mentions that the bulk of these deaths are attributed to the Special Police Commandos, who were formed under the experienced tutelage and oversight of veteran US counterinsurgency fighters, and from the outset conducted joint-force operations with elite and highly secretive US special-forces units.
Yasser Salihee found that many of the dead were apprehended by large groups of men driving white Toyota Land Cruisers with police markings. The men were wearing police commando uniforms and bulletproof vests, carrying expensive 9-millimeter Glock pistols and using sophisticated radios. He died shortly after reporting this at a US checkpoint, with a bullet in the head.