"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Two Defense Department intelligence officials reported observing brutal treatment of Iraqi insurgents captured in Baghdad last June, several weeks after disclosures of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison there created a worldwide uproar, according to a memorandum disclosed today.
The memorandum, written by the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency to a senior Pentagon official, said that when the two members of his agency objected to the treatment, they were threatened and told to keep quiet by other military interrogators. The memorandum said that the Defense Intelligence Agency officials saw prisoners being brought in to a detention center with burn marks on their backs and complaining about sore kidneys.
The memorandum was disclosed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained it as part of a cache of documents from a civil lawsuit seeking to discover the extent of abuse of prisoners by the military.
Other memorandums disclosed this week, including some released by the A.C.L.U., showed that the interrogation and detention system at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had drawn strong objections from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which argued that the coercive techniques used there were unnecessary and produced unreliable information. The Associated Press reported Monday that one F.B.I. official wrote in a memorandum of witnessing a series of coercive procedures at Guantánamo, including a female interrogator squeezing the genitals of a detainee and bending back his thumbs painfully.
The June 25 memorandum, written by Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was addressed to the under secretary of Defense for intelligence, Stephen Cambone. Admiral Jacoby wrote that one of his officers witnessed an interrogator from the special operations unit known as Task Force 6-26 "punch a prisoner in the face to the point the individual needed medical attention." Admiral Jacoby said that when the D.I.A. official took photos of that detainee, the pictures were confiscated.
The memorandum said that the two D.I.A. employees, who were not identified, had the keys to their vehicles confiscated, were instructed "not to leave the compound without specific permission even to get a haircut," were threatened, and were told their e-mail messages were being screened. The memorandum said they persevered and provided their accounts to superiors in the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The first thing to notice about this story is that the crimes described here were committed after the Abu Ghraib story broke. If the "bad apples" in the field had any reason to believe that the heat was on and that they had better clean up their act, they certainly did not show it. Obviously, they had little fear that their actions were likely to get them in any trouble.
Notice also that, despite the interrogators' threats, the reports of torture did make their way up the chain of commmand - in this case, to Stephen Cambone. The Times goes on to observe that the Pentagon "did not say what action if any was taken by Mr. Cambone." It is clear, however, what action was not taken - no one was removed from command, no one was prosecuted, and nothing changed.
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.
I have said before, and I will no doubt say again, that atrocities are an unavoidable part of war. The difference between a moral nation at war and an immoral nation at war lies in the response to those atrocities. I will leave it to my readers to decide what an utter lack of response signifies.
Another example, if you have the stomach for it:
A former US Marine has testified before a Canadian asylum tribunal that his unit had killed more than 30 innocent Iraqi civilians in only two days, news agencies reported. The testimony of Sergeant Jimmy Massey on Monday before Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) was in defense of US paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman, who had deserted the US Army and is seeking asylum in Canada. Massey said his unit had gunned down 30 unarmed civilians in Iraq in 2003 and that US Marines had routinely shot wounded Iraqis and killed them, according to the Washington Post. Massey said the 30 killings in two days had taken place while his unit was on checkpoint duty in Baghdad. “I do know that we killed innocent civilians,” he said. Massey reportedly told Canadian immigration officials that US soldiers had be scared that suicide bombers would attempt to attack checkpoints, and that cars were fired upon if they failed to respond to a single warning shot or hand signals. He said more than once, hundreds of rounds of ammunition were pounded into to individual cars, killing innocent civilians.
That Sgt. Massey's testimony came before a Canadian, rather than an American, tribunal tells us much about how seriously our government takes this problem.