US military continues torture in Baghdad, Iraq

This video from the USA says about itself:

An Iraqi man sued two U.S. military contractors Monday, claiming he was repeatedly tortured while being held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison for more than 10 months.

By Jerry White:

Torture exposed in new US-Iraqi “security stations”

24 April 2007

The brutal methods being employed by US forces and the Iraqi military in the current “surge” of US military operations in Baghdad were laid bare by an article that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times.

Entitled, “Three suspects talk after Iraqi soldiers do dirty work,” the piece details the torture of Sunni prisoners at one of the new American-Iraqi “security stations” set up in the capital city as part of the US plan to crush popular resistance to the occupation of Iraq.

The article, the first in a series on the new military outposts, focuses on a security station in the Ghazaliya neighborhood of western Baghdad, which Times reporter Alissa Rubin describes as “one of the roughest areas” of the capital, where an “active insurgency” against US forces is ongoing.

She hints at the devastation wrought by the US occupation in the mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood, describing sectarian conflict, pools of open sewage in the streets, non-functioning water and electricity services and a neighborhood with fewer than half the houses occupied.

The anti-US insurgency, says one Iraqi officer, consists chiefly of young, unemployed men who lack food and money and are too poor to marry.

Nevertheless, the reporter takes as given the necessity to stamp out opposition and suggests in the end that torture may be undesirable but nevertheless necessary to “save” American lives.

“Out here in what soldiers call Baghdad’s wild west,” Rubin declares, “sometimes the choices are all bad.”

Don’t expect too much from “embedded” reporters.

In Iraq, not a small or seizable minority, but the majority of people are unemployed.

Also from Iraq, today, from AFP:

Nine US soldiers killed, 20 wounded in Iraq car bomb …

The latest fatalities took the military’s losses in Iraq to 70 in this month alone and to 3,330 since the March 2003 invasion of the country, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.

Filipino workers recruited for Iraq despite ban: here.

The case of dead Iraq veteran James Coons: here.

US sergeant: Iraq war is like Vietnam and can’t be won, video: here.

5 thoughts on “US military continues torture in Baghdad, Iraq

  1. Robert Fisk
    13 April 2007

    (from: The Independent)

    Divide and Rule: Bush’s Doomed Plan for Baghdad

    Faced with an ever-more ruthless insurgency in Baghdad — despite President George Bush’s “surge” in troops — US forces in the city are now planning a massive and highly controversial counter-insurgency operation that will seal off vast areas of the city, enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter.

    The campaign of “gated communities” — whose genesis was in the Vietnam War — will involve up to 30 of the city’s 89 official districts and will be the most ambitious counter-insurgency programme yet mounted by the US in Iraq.

    The system has been used — and has spectacularly failed — in the past, and its inauguration in Iraq is as much a sign of American desperation at the country’s continued descent into civil conflict as it is of US determination to “win” the war against an Iraqi insurgency that has cost the lives of more than 3,200 American troops. The system of “gating” areas under foreign occupation failed during the French war against FLN insurgents in Algeria and again during the American war in Vietnam. Israel has employed similar practices during its occupation of Palestinian territory — again, with little success.

    But the campaign has far wider military ambitions than the pacification of Baghdad. It now appears that the US military intends to place as many as five mechanised brigades — comprising about 40,000 men — south and east of Baghdad, at least three of them positioned between the capital and the Iranian border. This would present Iran with a powerful — and potentially aggressive — American military force close to its border in the event of a US or Israeli military strike against its nuclear facilities later this year.

    The latest “security” plan, of which The Independent has learnt the details, was concocted by General David Petraeus, the current US commander in Baghdad, during a six-month command and staff course at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Those attending the course — American army generals serving in Iraq and top officers from the US Marine Corps, along with, according to some reports, at least four senior Israeli officers — participated in a series of debates to determine how best to “turn round” the disastrous war in Iraq.

    The initial emphasis of the new American plan will be placed on securing Baghdad market places and predominantly Shia Muslim areas. Arrests of men of military age will be substantial. The ID card project is based upon a system adopted in the city of Tal Afar by General Petraeus’s men — and specifically by Colonel H R McMaster, of the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment — in early 2005, when an eight-foot “berm” was built around the town to prevent the movement of gunmen and weapons. General Petraeus regarded the campaign as a success although Tal Afar, close to the Syrian border, has since fallen back into insurgent control.

    So far, the Baghdad campaign has involved only the creation of a few US positions within several civilian areas of the city but the new project will involve joint American and Iraqi “support bases” in nine of the 30 districts to be “gated” off. From these bases — in fortified buildings — US-Iraqi forces will supposedly clear militias from civilian streets which will then be walled off and the occupants issued with ID cards. Only the occupants will be allowed into these “gated communities” and there will be continuous patrolling by US-Iraqi forces. There are likely to be pass systems, “visitor” registration and restrictions on movement outside the “gated communities.” Civilians may find themselves inside a “controlled population” prison.

    In theory, US forces can then concentrate on providing physical reconstruction in what the military like to call a “secure environment”. But insurgents are not foreigners, despite the presence of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. They come from the same population centres that will be “gated” and will, if undiscovered, hold ID cards themselves; they will be “enclosed” with everyone else.

    A former US officer in Vietnam who has a deep knowledge of General Petraeus’s plans is sceptical of the possible results. “The first loyalty of any Sunni who is in the Iraqi army is to the insurgency,” he said. “Any Shia’s first loyalty is to the head of his political party and its militia. Any Kurd in the Iraqi army, his first loyalty is to either Barzani or Talabani. There is no independent Iraqi army. These people really have no choice. They are trying to save their families from starvation and reprisal. At one time they may have believed in a unified Iraq. At one time they may have been secular. But the violence and brutality that started with the American invasion has burnt those liberal ideas out of people … Every American who is embedded in an Iraqi unit is in constant mortal danger.”

    The senior generals who constructed the new “security” plan for Baghdad were largely responsible for the seminal — but officially “restricted” — field manual on counter-insurgency produced by the Department of the Army in December of last year, code-numbered FM 3-24. While not specifically advocating the “gated communities” campaign, one of its principles is the unification of civilian and military activities, citing “civil operations and revolutionary development support teams” in South Vietnam, assistance to Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq in 1991 and the “provincial reconstruction teams” in Afghanistan — a project widely condemned for linking military co-operation and humanitarian aid.

    FM 3-24 is harsh in its analysis of what counter-insurgency forces must do to eliminate violence in Iraq. “With good intelligence,” it says, “counter-insurgents are like surgeons cutting out cancerous tissue while keeping other vital organs intact.” But another former senior US officer has produced his own pessimistic conclusions about the “gated” neighbourhood project. “Once the additional troops are in place the insurrectionists will cut the lines of communication from Kuwait to the greatest extent they are able,” he told The Independent. “They will do the same inside Baghdad, forcing more use of helicopters. The helicopters will be vulnerable coming into the patrol bases, and the enemy will destroy as many as they can. The second part of their plan will be to attempt to destroy one of the patrol bases. They will begin that process by utilising their people inside the ‘gated communities’ to help them enter. They will choose bases where the Iraqi troops either will not fight or will actually support them.

    “The American reaction will be to use massive firepower, which will destroy the neighbourhood that is being ‘protected.'”

    The ex-officer’s fears for American helicopter crews were re-emphasised yesterday when a military Apache was shot down over central Baghdad.

    The American’s son is an officer currently serving in Baghdad. “The only chance the American military has to withdraw with any kind of tactical authority in the future is to take substantial casualties as a token of their respect for the situation created by the invasion,” he said.

    “The effort to create some order out of the chaos and the willingness to take casualties to do so will leave some residual respect for the Americans as they leave.”

    FM 3-24: America’s new masterplan for Iraq

    FM 3-24 comprises 220 pages of counter-insurgency planning, combat training techniques and historical analysis. The document was drawn up by Lt-Gen David Petraeus, the US commander in Baghdad, and Lt-Gen James Amos of the US Marine Corps, and was the nucleus for the new US campaign against the Iraqi insurgency. These are some of its recommendations and conclusions:

    * In the eyes of some, a government that cannot protect its people forfeits the right to rule. In [parts] of Iraq and Afghanistan… militias established themselves as extragovernmental arbiters of the populace’s physical security — in some cases, after first undermining that security…
    * In the al-Qa’ida narrative… Osama bin Laden depicts himself as a man purified in the mountains of Afghanistan who is inspiring followers and punishing infidels. In the collective imagination of Bin Laden and his followers, they are agents of Islamic history who will reverse the decline of the umma (Muslim community) and bring about its triumph over Western imperialism.
    * As the Host Nation government increases its legitimacy, the populace begins to assist it more actively. Eventually, the people marginalise insurgents to the point that [their] claim to legitimacy is destroyed. However, victory is gained not when this is achieved, but when the victory is permanently maintained by and with the people’s active support…
    * Any human rights abuses committed by US forces quickly become known throughout the local populace. Illegitimate actions undermine counterinsurgency efforts… Abuse of detained persons is immoral, illegal and unprofessional.
    * If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace and contact maintained.
    * FM 3-24 quotes Lawrence of Arabia as saying: “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them.”
    * FM 3-24 points to Napoleon’s failure to control occupied Spain as the result of not providing a “stable environment” for the population. His struggle, the document says, lasted nearly six years and required four times the force of 80,000 Napoleon originally designated.
    * Do not try to crack the hardest nut first. Do not go straight for the main insurgent stronghold. Instead, start from secure areas and work gradually outwards… Go with, not against, the grain of the local populace.
    * Be cautious about allowing soldiers and marines to fraternise with local children. Homesick troops want to drop their guard with kids. But insurgents are watching. They notice any friendships between troops and children. They may either harm the children as punishment or use them as agents.

    © 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.


  2. Stan Winer: Abu Ghraib … Tortured fragments of history (The view from South Africa)

    [South African-based writer Stan Winer is author of the book Between the Lies: Rise of the media-military-industrial complex, (London: Southern Universities Press, 2004)]

    In April 2004, the world was momentarily shocked by televised photographs from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison showing hooded Iraqis stripped naked, posed in contorted positions, and visibly suffering humiliating abuse while amused American soldiers stood by. Responsibility for these acts has largely been confined to the lower ranks and kept close to Abu Ghraib itself. Official statements attributed the practice to an unusual and temporary breakdown in “military discipline”, thus diverting any suspicion that psychological torture as paraded before our eyes in the Abu Ghraib snapshots is the product of intelligence policies shaped in design and application over a long period of time.
    The Abu Ghraib scandal did, however, open a floodgate of news and information leaks about the existence of a mini-gulag of prisons the CIA and US Army Intelligence had set up in Afghanistan, on aircraft carriers, in remote places like the Indian Ocean Island of Diego Garcia, and in the prisons of torture-friendly allies.(1) An official inquiry disclosed that the US Army specifically allowed CIA to house “Ghost Detainees” who were unidentified and unaccounted for in Abu Ghraib, thus encouraging violations of reporting and monitoring requirements under the Geneva Conventions.(2)

    What the official inquiry studiously failed to disclose were the reasons why obsessive secrecy was deemed necessary in the first place. Protected by extreme secrecy, such facilities are placed outside the rule of law. They are not subject to review of the manner in which they are operated, the interrogation methods used, and the general conditions prevailing there. Representatives of the Red Cross are denied access to the facilities; nobody knows how many detainees are held there, who the detainees are or where they come from, nor would it be known which authority was responsible for the arrest and bringing them to the facility, who conducted the interrogations, or whether they were authorised to do so.

    It is reasonable to assume that, once a prisoner of war is captured, the captor’s immediate short-term objective would be to obtain from the prisoner quick information for tactical operations such as strikes, counter-strikes or further arrests. The infliction of physical pain is probably the quickest method of obtaining information, the usefulness of which is usually short-lived due to the changing and changeable nature of battlefield conditions. So why any need for psychological torture, which is comparatively slower at producing results and seemingly more benign than physical methods?

    The obsessive veil of secrecy surrounding such methods means that military personnel are themselves largely unaware of how their individual actions fit into the overall picture. Others know exactly what they are doing, but keep quiet because they also know that what they are doing is criminal. The Official Secrets Act also ensures that lips remain tightly sealed. Above all, a perceived need to protect “the national interest” combines with censorship to retain a wall of silence around the subject.

    A notable exception occurred, however, several years ago during the long-running trial in South Africa of alleged war criminal Brigadier Wouter Basson, a South African Army chemical and biological warfare specialist. The trial provided a rare glimpse into the horrors that can and did evidently occur in circumstances of extreme secrecy and geographical isolation no less pervasive and extreme as those prevailing currently in America’s gulag of secret prisons. Evidence presented at Basson’s trial concerned, among other things, certain events taking place in the 1970s and 1980s at an airfield and forward military base named Fort Rev, situated in Ondangwa in Owamboland in the former South West Africa, (now Namibia).

    Fort Rev was used by 5 Reconnaissance Regiment and the other Special Forces Regiments as an operational base for launching counter-insurgency operations into Angola and areas of Owamboland. Within the base was also a secret torture and interrogation centre where attempts, not always successful, were made to “turn” or “convert” captured guerrillas into “pseudo operators” for covert deception operations. Hence the name Fort Rev, meaning “reversal”. Behavioural scientists have another phrase for it: transmarginal inhibition or TMI — a state of behavioral collapse induced by physical and emotional stress prior to inducing new patterns of actions and beliefs. Successful application of this technique, sometimes referred to pejoratively as “brain washing”, requires psychological torturers to have total control of the environment. Existing mental programming can then be replaced with new patterns of thinking and behavior. The same results can be obtained in contemporary psychiatric treatment by electric shock treatments and even by purposely lowering a patient’s blood sugar level with insulin injections. (3)

    The Namibian deception operations, under the tutelage of battle hardened former Rhodesian special forces operators, had to be kept secret at any cost. If the operations were successful, pseudo gangs consisting of turned guerrillas posing as genuine freedom fighters would be infiltrated back into the field of battle where they would capture insurgents. Some of the captured insurgents, so-called “high value targets”, would be turned at Fort Rev, others being useful only as a source of information. But, having served that purpose they then presented a security risk due to the nature of at least some intelligence they themselves would have picked during the course of interrogation, as this could immediately compromise the secrecy of the entire pseudo operations programme. So they could not be processed through normal channels and imprisoned in a central holding facility.

    The torturers and interrogators at Fort Rev got around this small problem by simply killing off survivors. “Redundant” prisoners were disposed of without trace after being drugged and their bodies dumped into the Atlantic Ocean from an aircraft. It is difficult to imagine a more horrible way of dying. The doomed prisoners, before being loaded onto an aircraft and dumped 100 miles out to sea, were first injected with powerful muscle relaxants which had the effect of paralysing the victim whilst leaving his mind fully conscious. An anaesthetic drug was also used, having the effect of causing hallucinations. (4)

    In the absence of digital imaging technology of the kind evidenced at Abu Gharieb, one can only speculate about the extent to which similar methods were practised during France’s battle for Algiers in the 1950s, Britain’s suppression of independence movements in Kenya and Malaya in the 1960s, Argentina’s dirty war, Britain’s Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970 and 1980s, and countless other regional conflicts. But whatever happened then, and whatever the true activities currently taking place in America’s gulag of secret prisons, it is certainly the case that extreme secrecy provides an ideal environment for the application of psychological torture techniques aimed at brain-washing prisoners of war.

    Yet there remains wide public ignorance and a studied avoidance of this unsettling subject. Few people have been able to fit together the fragments of history and grasp the larger picture. Others simply don’t want to know. The practice of psychological torture, never fully acknowledged, is thus allowed to persist inside the secret services as the product of intelligence strategies that have probably been standard practice for at least half-a-century or more. Abu Ghraib is but the tip of an iceberg.


    (1) For a list of US detention sites see

    (2) For many years the Israeli secret services took this one step further by actually operating a “ghost prison” for political detainees. Code-named Facility 1391, this secret prison intended for “special cases” operated in Israel for many years within the walls of a secret army base, distant from the eyes of the Press and the public, and without being declared a detention facility, as required by statute. See

    (3) The technique was discovered by Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov (see bibliography below) who identified TMI in the early 1900’s. His work with animals opened the door to further investigations with humans. The ways to achieve conversion through TMI are many and varied, but the usual first step in brainwashing is to work on the emotions of an individual or group until they reach an abnormal level of anger, fear, excitement or nervous tension. The progressive result of this mental condition is to impair judgement and increase suggestibility. The more this condition can be maintained or intensified, the more it compounds, leading to total behavioural conversion.

    (4) Wouter Basson trial records 19, 20 & 20a. The complete trial record is available at


    Eysenck HJ The biological basis of personality, Springfield, IL: Thomas, (1967)

    Pavlov, IP Lectures on Conditional Reflexes: The higher nervous activity (Behaviour) of animals, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1928

    Sargant, W The Battle for the Mind, London: Wm Heinemann, 1957

    Posted on Monday, May 1, 2006 at 10:24 PM


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