This video from the USA is called A sneak peak at the HBO documentary, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib.
From Associated Press:
Iraqi alleges Abu Ghraib torture, sues U.S. contractors
LOS ANGELES — An Iraqi man who says he was tortured while detained at the Abu Ghraib prison is suing two U.S. military contractors.
Emad al-Janabi claims in a federal lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles that he was abused for 10 months beginning in September 2003 by employees of CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communications, formerly Titan Corp.
Al-Janabi says his jailers punched him, slammed him into walls, hung him from a bed frame and kept him naked and handcuffed in his cell. He claims contractors conspired to cover up the torture by destroying documents and other information.
Pictures of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib ignited international outrage.
See also here.
More on CACI: here.
Bush Admits He Approved Use Of Torture
Interview With President Revealing
Helen Thomas, Hearst White House columnist
POSTED: 5:06 pm EDT April 30, 2008
UPDATED: 8:16 am EDT May 1, 2008
WASHINGTON — The American people have heard President George W. Bush and his spokespersons say many times that the U.S. government does not engage in torture.
Whether Bush was believed or not is another story — especially in light of the photographic evidence of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, the prison near Baghdad. It’s understood that many of the photos are too sadistically graphic to be made public.
Still, the official U.S. denials of torture continued until earlier this month when Bush acknowledged in an interview with ABC-TV that he knew about and approved “enhanced interrogation” of detainees, including “waterboarding” or simulated drowning.
“As a matter of fact,” Bush added, “I told the country we did that. And I told them it was legal. We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it.” The president added, “I didn’t have any problems at all trying to find out what Khalid Sheik Mohammed knew.”
“He was the person who ordered the suicide attack — I mean, the 9-11 attacks,” Bush said. “And back then, there was all kind of concern about people saying, ‘Well, the administration is not connecting the dots.’ You might remember those — that period.” Bush said.
Bush also said in the interview that he had been aware of several meetings his national security advisers held to discuss “enhanced interrogation” methods.
Surely this president is also aware of the U.S. commitment to international treaties barring “cruel and inhumane” treatment of prisoners.
What is startling is that he feels no remorse about the cruel image he has created for America — and the damage done to its credibility and probity.
In referring to the legality of torture, Bush apparently was thinking of a 2002-2003 memo written by John Yoo, a Justice Department official, who argued that military interrogators could subject detainees to harsh treatment as long as it didn’t cause “death, organ failure or permanent damage.”
The memo was later rescinded.
Bush who has insisted “we do not torture” also recently vetoed legislation that explicitly banned torture. And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., whose whole political persona has been defined by the fact that he had been tortured while a prisoner of war during the Vietnam era, supported Bush’s veto.
For both Bush and McCain, I recall the words of Joseph Welch, the special counselor for the Army during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings when Welch asked Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis.: “Sir, have you no sense of decency?”
We expected the usual cast of characters including Vice President Dick Cheney to be in on the sinister torture-planning sessions.
But it came as a shock that Gen. Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, sat in on the meetings and went along with the planning. Powell had been on record warning against U.S. torture policies on the basis that if we mistreat our prisoners, foreign countries will feel no qualms about abusing American captives in wartime.
Once revered for his integrity, Powell has lost his halo.
Now we have this week’s testimony of Air Force Col. Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor, who took the witness stand at Guantanamo Bay on behalf of a prisoner. Davis told how top Pentagon officials had pressured him on sensitive prosecutorial decisions for political reasons. He said he was told that the charges against well-known detainees “could have real strategic value” and that there could be no acquittals.
Davis also testified that Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann reversed a decision he had made and insisted that prosecutors proceed with evidence they had obtained through waterboarding and other methods of torture.
Davis also testified he was told to speed up the cases to give the system legitimacy before a new president takes over in January.
Is Congress so cowed that it accepts the statements of a president who has little regard for the truth?
Is there no lawmaker who is appalled about the tarnishing of our image in world opinion? And where are the voices of the other presidential candidates who will inherit the Bush legacy of torture? Why the silence?
I count on the American people to refuse to be shamed any more.
Helen Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2008 by Hearst Newspapers.
Shoddy electrical work puts soldiers at risk in Iraq
Posted to: Iraq Military
New York Times
May 4, 2008
By James Risen
In October 2004, the U.S. Army issued an urgent bulletin to commanders across Iraq, warning them of a deadly new threat to American soldiers. Because of flawed electrical work by contractors, the bulletin stated, soldiers at American bases in Iraq had received severe electrical shocks, and some had been electrocuted.
The bulletin, with the headline “The Unexpected Killer,” was issued after the deaths of two soldiers who were caught in water – one in a shower, the other in a swimming pool – that was electrified after poorly grounded wiring short-circuited.
“We’ve had several shocks in showers and near misses here in Baghdad, as well as in other parts of the country,” Frank Trent, an expert with the Army Corps of Engineers, wrote in the bulletin. “As we install temporary and permanent power on our projects, we must ensure that we require contractors to properly ground electrical systems.”
Since that warning, at least two American soldiers have been electrocuted in similar incidents. In all, at least a dozen American military personnel have been electrocuted in Iraq, according to the Pentagon and congressional investigators.
While several deaths have been attributed to inadvertent contact with power lines under battlefield conditions, the Army bulletin said that five deaths during the preceding year apparently had been caused by faulty grounding, and the circumstances of others have not been fully explained by the Army. Many more soldiers have been injured by shocks, Pentagon officials and soldiers say.
The accidental deaths and close calls are being investigated by Congress and the Defense Department’s inspector general. Previous inquiries involving oversight of contractors in the war zone have looked into killings by security guards, shoddy reconstruction projects and fraud involving military supplies.
American electricians who worked for KBR, the Houston-based defense contractor that is responsible for maintaining American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, said they repeatedly warned company managers and military officials about unsafe electrical work, which often was performed by poorly trained Iraqis and Afghans paid just a few dollars a day.
One electrician warned his KBR bosses in his 2005 letter of resignation that unsafe electrical work was “a disaster waiting to happen.”
Another said he witnessed an American soldier in Afghanistan receiving a potentially lethal shock. A third provided e-mail messages and other documents showing he had complained to KBR and the government that logs were created to make it appear that nonexistent electrical safety systems were properly functioning.
KBR itself told the Pentagon in early 2007 about unsafe electrical wiring at a base near the Baghdad airport, but no repairs were made. Less than a year later, a soldier was electrocuted in a shower there.
“I don’t feel like they did their job,” Carmen Nolasco Duran of La Puente, Calif., said of Pentagon officials. Her brother, Spc. Marcos Nolasco, was electrocuted at a base in Baiji in May 2004 while showering. “They hired these contractors and yet they didn’t go and double-check that the work was fine.”
The Defense Contract Management Agency, which is responsible for supervising maintenance work by contractors at American bases in Iraq, defended its performance. In a written statement, the agency said it had no information that staff members “were aware” of the Army alert or “failed to take appropriate action in response to unsafe conditions brought to our attention.”
Keith Ernst, who stepped down Wednesday as the agency’s director, acknowledged, though, that the agency was “stretched too thin” in Iraq and that the small number of contract officers did not have expertise in dealing with so-called life support contracts, like that awarded to KBR to provide food, shelter and building maintenance. “We don’t have the technical capability for overseeing life support systems,” he said.
For its part, KBR, which until last year was known as Kellogg, Brown and Root and was a subsidiary of Halliburton, denied that any lapses by the company had led to the electrocutions of American soldiers.
“KBR’s commitment to employee safety and the safety of those the company serves is unwavering,” said Heather Browne, a spokeswoman. “KBR has found no evidence of a link between the work it has been tasked to perform and the reported electrocutions.”
Browne declined to respond to the specific charges or assertions of former KBR electricians.
Those electricians have a ready response to anyone who suggests that poor electrical work might be considered an unavoidable cost of war.
“The excuse KBR always used was, ‘This is a war zone – what do you expect?’ ” said Jeffrey Bliss, an Ohio electrician who worked for the company in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2006. “But if you are going to do the work, you have got to do it safe.”
Iraq war strains U.S. army mental health system
Tue May 6, 2008 9:56am EDT
By Claudia Parsons
FORT DRUM, New York (Reuters) – Fort Drum, a bleak U.S. Army base in upstate New York, is a test case for how the military is handling a looming mental health crisis.
The military and its critics agree on one thing — there are not enough therapists to treat all the soldiers who return from Iraq and Afghanistan traumatized by the experience.
The 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2BCT) is the most-deployed brigade in the U.S. army since 2001. It served two tours in Afghanistan, totaling 11 months, and was sent to Iraq twice for tours of 12 and 15 months.
“They’re kind of a canary in a coal mine,” said Paul Rieckhoff, a former Army captain who founded the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “They’re a good barometer to understand the human cost of the war.”
A report by advocacy group Veterans for America said the mental healthcare system at Fort Drum was not meeting the demands placed on it and had prepared inadequately for the return of more than 3,500 soldiers from Iraq late last year.
“Even though we knew this group were coming back from their 4th deployment and there would be these problems, we still had massive waits of two months (for appointments),” Veterans for America spokeswoman Adrienne Willis said.
The report, released in February, said there were not enough counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, there was too much reliance on group therapy over individual care and there was a lack of continuity in care. The lack of a hospital on base was also a problem.
It said commanding officer Gen. Michael Oates deserved “commendation” for setting the tone that psychological wounds were legitimate combat wounds. Nevertheless, the stigma of mental problems kept many soldiers from speaking up, it said.
Todd Benham, head of Fort Drum’s behavioral health department, attributed long wait times to a lack of staff. He said the unit had plans to expand but it takes time to recruit, particularly in a rural area such as Fort Drum.
“It’s definitely a crunch, it’s difficult recruiting and certainly it’s more difficult up here,” Benham said.
“I don’t think anybody is pretending the stigma has gone away or we didn’t have significant wait times for a while,” Benham said. “We understand there was an issue.”
“Yes, we recognize Fort Drum needs some help, but that’s something we’ve been working on for a year or more,” he said.
GROWING CASE LOAD
Benham said visits to the clinic have risen from about 14,000 in 2001 to 26,000 expected this year. There was a big jump from 2004 to 2005 when the unit started screening all returning soldiers for mental health problems.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can result from wartime trauma such as wounds or witnessing others being hurt. Symptoms include irritability or outbursts of anger, sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, extreme vigilance and an exaggerated startle response.
Christopher Smith, 23, a tank mechanic who served in Ramadi, returned from Iraq in January 2006 and left the army. In the following six months, he grew increasingly withdrawn and isolated and was unable to hold down a job.
Despite what his wife Cara says were clear signs of PTSD, he managed to re-enlist in December 2006 without the recruiter noticing a problem. Sent to Fort Drum, he was diagnosed with PTSD and judged undeployable. He has been on a string of different medications, none of which he says have worked.
“It’s so frustrating,” Cara Smith said, describing the base as unfriendly and depressing.
“The doctors up there, they say ‘Come to group therapy, we’ll help you.’ But because of his duty and his orders and stuff he has to do, he missed two group therapy sessions and got kicked out of group therapy,” she said.
Now, she said, he has a 30-minute individual therapy session around every six weeks. “It’s not really therapy, it’s more of a medication appointment,” she said.
About 300,000 troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer PTSD or depression, or one in five of the more than 1.5 million who have deployed, according to a report by RAND Corp.
Around 17,000 troops are based at Fort Drum, a sprawling base near the Canadian border that endures bitter winters. Around 4,000 of those are in Iraq.
Most soldiers in the 2nd brigade will not have served all four tours, but some senior non-commissioned officers have deployed three or four times. Military studies show those on repeat deployments are more prone to PTSD.
Benham said his department has 35 staff in its three clinics, which cover mental health services, social work and substance abuse. Three more positions will be filled within a month and there are 16 vacancies.
Several soldiers interviewed by Reuters said the first weeks back for many younger soldiers was devoted to drinking.
“The first month back, everybody got drunk, pretty much,” said William Buehler, 23, adding that as a married soldier he did not participate in such drinking. “You’ve been gone 15 months, that’s what everybody wants to do,” he said.
Among a series of incidents fueling concern about drinking, a Fort Drum soldier was arrested in March and charged with vehicular assault while intoxicated after ploughing his car into a crowd outside a nightclub, injuring seven soldiers.
In an effort to shame those who go too far, Gen. Oates decided in March to print the names and photographs of soldiers arrested for drink driving in the base newspaper.
Several soldiers interviewed on base praised the move as a good deterrent, but Willis of Veterans for America said many of those named were in the brigade that just came back from Iraq.
She said while nobody would justify drink driving, it was important to examine the link to combat stress. “They’re making it the full responsibility of the soldier when the rest of the world has come to realize alcohol is a symptom of PTSD.”
Tom Berger, chairman of a PTSD committee at the Vietnam Veterans of America, said alcohol abuse was typical.
“A lot of these folks, all indications are they’re self-medicating. They come home and they try to deal with this stuff with a 12-pack (of beer),” he said.
(Reporting by Claudia Parsons; Editing by Eddie Evans)
Mental Health Woes Afflict Almost a Third of Iraq, Afghan Vets
And experts worry the numbers are rising
By Steven Reinberg
Updated: 4/26/2007 3:13:24 PM
MONDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) — Nearly a third of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2005 are being diagnosed with at least one mental health problem when seeking care at Veterans Administration hospitals, University of California, San Francisco, researchers report.
“Twenty-five percent of veterans who were new users of the VA health care system had a mental health diagnosis,” said lead researcher Dr. Karen H. Seal, from the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center. “When you include psychosocial behavioral problems, 31 percent had a psychosocial or mental health diagnosis,” she said.
Seal is concerned that the number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental problems is higher than in other wars. “I am surprised by the high prevalence and what may be an upward trend.” she said.
Earlier reports have already spotted high rates of substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems in soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A study released late February from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found that slightly more than 19 percent of Iraqi vets met the criteria for a mental health concern, as did more than 11 percent of those returning from Afghanistan.
The new study, which shows even higher numbers, is being released at a time when the military and the VA have been under continuing criticism for their inability to provide adequate care for returning soldiers. These concerns have led to Congressional inquires and the appointment of a presidential commission to investigate both military and VA health care.
The report is published in the March 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In the study, Seal and colleagues collected data on almost 104,000 veterans. Of these, about 13 percent were women, 54 percent were younger than age 30, and close to one-third were minorities. Almost half were in the National Guard or Reserves rather than full-time military.
The researchers found that 31 percent of the patients received mental health and/or psychosocial diagnoses. For the 25 percent who received a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, more than half (56 percent) had two or more mental conditions diagnosed. PTSD was the most common diagnosis. It accounted for 52 percent of all those who were diagnosed with a mental problem and 13 percent of all the veterans in the study.
“This new generation of veterans will be challenging to treat, because they have co-occurring mental health disorders,” Seal said.
She noted that most mental health problems were identified during visits with primary care doctors, not with mental health professionals. “We found that most of these diagnoses occurred in primary care settings,” Seal said.
Because primary care doctors are not trained mental health professionals, Seal thinks that there are many more veterans who may have undiagnosed mental health problems, further increasing the total number of affected veterans.
To deal with the problem, the VA is spending money to integrate mental health care into primary care. “The VA is really stepping up to the plate,” she said.
However, many patients who do receive a diagnosis of a mental health problem do not seek further help, Seal said.
“Most of the patients went on to a mental health clinic, where the diagnosis was confirmed,” Seal said. “But 40 percent did not seek further mental health care — that was concerning,” she said. This may be because the stigma of having a mental health problem is especially strong within the military, she said.
In addition, most of the burden of mental health woes fell on the youngest veterans, Seal said. “The youngest group of veterans — 18-to-24-year-olds returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — were at the highest risk for having a mental health diagnosis or a PTSD diagnosis,” she said. “The highest prevalence of mental health diagnosis were in the youngest group of active-duty veterans,” she added.
Seal believes that the youngest veterans were most affected, because they saw the most combat. “Combat exposure directly correlates with the development of PTSD and other mental health diagnoses,” she said.
“The numbers are staggering,” noted Simon Rego, an associate director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City.
The prevalence of PTSD among these veterans is roughly the same as it was for Vietnam veterans, Rego said, “but if you look at the prevalence of PTSD in the general population — it’s about 3.5 percent — this is a bubble coming our way.”
Because most patients were diagnosed by primary care doctors, Rego believes that many of these physicians will need better training to spot veterans at risk. “We have to do our best to educate the primary care doctors that these patients could come to you first, and you should look for the symptoms of PTSD or other mental health disorders and refer patients for specialty care,” he said.
There’s more on the mental health toll on soldiers of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan at the U.S. National Center for PTSD.
SOURCES: Karen H. Seal, M.D., M.P.H., San Francisco VA Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco; Simon Rego, Psy.D., associate director of psychology training, Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; March 12, 2007, Archives of Internal Medicine
Copyright © 2007 ScoutNews, LLC.
Posted by: “Jack” miscStonecutter@earthlink.net
Wed May 7, 2008 7:05 pm (PDT)
Cheney aide subpoenaed to testify to Congress
By Thomas Ferraro
Wed May 7, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff was subpoenaed on Wednesday to testify in a congressional probe of the administration’s treatment and possible torture of enemy combatants.
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, issued the subpoena to David Addington a day after it was authorized by a House panel.
The administration contends its aides can not be forced to testify. But Addington has indicated he may do so if subpoenaed, congressional staffers said.
Megan Mitchell, spokeswoman for the vice president’s office, said, “I can confirm that we have received the subpoena. We are reviewing it and will respond accordingly.”
The subpoena orders Addington to appear on June 26 before the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which is examining the administration’s treatment of detainees.
Addington reportedly played a key role in drafting U.S. strategies to combat terrorism after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Bush maintains the United States does not torture, but he has refused to discuss interrogation techniques, saying he does not want to tip off the enemy.
The CIA has acknowledged using a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding on three terrorism suspects, but says it stopped using that method in 2003.
Waterboarding has been condemned by human rights groups, foreign countries and many U.S. lawmakers as torture.
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft and John Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general, have agreed to testify before the Judiciary subcommittee.
Bush has invoked executive privilege in rejecting congressional subpoenas for a number of current and former aides, many sought in a probe of the firing in 2006 of nine federal prosecutors.
In March, the House Judiciary Committee filed suit in U.S. District Court asking it to direct White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to produce subpoenaed documents and order former White House counsel Harriet Miers to comply with a subpoena and testify about the ousted prosecutors.
A ruling is not expected for at least several months.
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