"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

For Those Who Thought My Earlier Post Was Shrill... 

I'm sure that some of you felt that my comments posted earlier today, in which I described our current government as "a criminal regime," were unduly shrill.

The hell they were.

I have since discovered, via an excellent diary entry at Daily Kos, this truly horrifying story at Salon (subscription or free day pass required):
On June 15, 2003, Sgt. Frank "Greg" Ford, a counterintelligence agent in the California National Guard's 223rd Military Intelligence (M.I.) Battalion stationed in Samarra, Iraq, told his commanding officer, Capt. Victor Artiga, that he had witnessed five incidents of torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at his base, and requested a formal investigation. Thirty-six hours later, Ford, a 49-year-old with over 30 years of military service in the Coast Guard, Army and Navy, was ordered by U.S. Army medical personnel to lie down on a gurney, was then strapped down, loaded onto a military plane and medevac'd to a military medical center outside the country.

Although no "medevac" order appears to have been written, in violation of Army policy, Ford was clearly shipped out because of a diagnosis that he was suffering from combat stress. After Ford raised the torture allegations, Artiga immediately said Ford was "delusional" and ordered a psychiatric examination, according to Ford. But that examination, carried out by an Army psychiatrist, diagnosed him as "completely normal."

A witness, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Marciello, claims that Artiga became enraged when he read the initial medical report finding nothing wrong with Ford and intimidated the psychiatrist into changing it. According to Marciello, Artiga angrily told the psychiatrist that it was a "C.I. [counterintelligence] or M.I. matter" and insisted that she had to change her report and get Ford out of Iraq.

Documents show that all subsequent examinations of Ford by Army mental-health professionals, over many months, confirmed his initial diagnosis as normal....

Col. C. Tsai, a military doctor who examined Ford in Germany and found nothing wrong with him, told a film crew for Spiegel Television that he was "not surprised" at Ford's diagnosis. Tsai told Spiegel that he had treated "three or four" other U.S. soldiers from Iraq that were also sent to Landstuhl for psychological evaluations or "combat stress counseling" after they reported incidents of detainee abuse or other wrongdoing by American soldiers.

The author of this piece is no bleeding-heart peacenik; he is a veteran U.S. Army counterintelligence agent who served in Iraq himself. His interview with Sgt. Ford is thus well informed, and painfully detailed:
[Ford] described multiple incidents of what he called "war crimes" and "torture" of Iraqi detainees ranging in age from about 15 to 35. According to Ford, his teammates, three counterintelligence agents like himself -- one of them a woman -- systematically and repeatedly abused several Iraqi male detainees over a two-to three-week time period. Ford describes incidents of asphyxiation, mock executions, arms being pulled out of sockets, and lit cigarettes forced into detainee's ears while they were blindfolded and bound. These atrocities took place in an Iraqi police station, Ford said. His attempts to stop the abuse were met with either indifference or threats by his team leader, who was himself one of the abusers, according to Ford.

Ford clenched his fists tightly and shook his head slowly from side to side. "I guess one of the things that pisses me off most is the arrogance," he said. "The condescending attitude that my team had. Some of the medics, too. Saying things like 'So what, he's just another haji,' like they were scum or some kind of animal, really just pisses me off."

Ford said he was fighting a raging battle with himself over whether to report what he'd seen to his superiors at Anaconda or to confront the team leader one last time. He felt "sick inside" about the mistreatment of detainees, but he did not want to be a "rat," either. Having worked as a corrections officer for almost 20 years, Ford knew how he would be perceived among the troops if he snitched. "I didn't want to have to watch my back at the same time I was dodging mortar rounds from the Iraqis. I decided that I had to confront [the team leader] and tell him, in no uncertain terms, that I would not stand for any more of that kind of shit toward the detainees."

Ford said he found the team leader and had it out with him. "I told him that if there was ever a court-martial over these incidents, I would absolutely testify against him. I said that this kind of crap has to stop or else I would report it to Artiga." According to Ford, the team leader replied, "Fine, Greg, you do what you have to do." By then, Ford said, he'd "had enough." He told the team leader that he would be filing a complaint against him and the other agent as soon as possible. He said the team leader told him he was "crazy" and "seeing things" and no one would believe him anyway, so "knock yourself out."

Lo and behold, the team leader was right - Ford was found to be delusional and sent off for re-education.

This is not a few bad apples - this is official policy. This is a system that, at the very least, shields and protects the torturers, while persecuting those who would work toward stopping the torture. This is a wholesale abrogation of the Geneva Conventions (which our new Attorney General dismisses as "quaint"), and indeed, of all civilized rules of warfare.

And I'm sorry if you find this insulting or offensive, but if you voted for George W. Bush, this is your fault. When these chickens come home to roost, it's on you. I don't care how enamoured you may be of the administration's economic policies, or how "godly" you think these thugs may be, this is the bottom line - you voted in favor of extinguishing lit cigarettes in people's ears. There is no way to sugarcoat that sad fact.

One final note: In my earlier post, I cited the New York Times' story about the Jacoby memorandum. As it happens, the Washington Post also has a fine piece on the subject. While there is a great deal of crossover between the two articles, it is well worth reading them both for a more complete story. In particular, I was intrigued by the reference to "brutal and sometimes illegal military interrogation methods employed against prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay." I am curious to learn which interrogation methods are brutal but not illegal. Also, I liked the subtle snark lurking between the lines in this snippet:
Air Force Lt. Col. John A. Skinner, a Pentagon spokesman, said "there have been more than 50,000 detainees and only around 300 or so allegations of abuse," many of which "turn out to be unsubstantiated once investigated." He added that one "incident of abuse is one too many" and that the department is committed to a "transparent investigation" of all allegations. He declined to answer questions on any specific allegation or to say why the government tried to suppress the documents released yesterday.

It's good that there will be a "transparent investigation," I'm just not sure how that will happen when the Pentagon declines to answer questions or explain why documents are being suppressed. I guess it all depends on what your definition of "transparent" is.




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