Sunday, March 05, 2006

60 Minutes blows the lid off Afghan torture deaths

Cross posted to and recommended at Daily Kos

Things just got a bit worse for Dear Leader, Herr Rumsfeld, Abu Gonzalez and their band of torturers. In what is shaping up to be a weekly smackdown of this mis-administration's policies and crimes, 60 Minutes had a hard-hitting story about the torture deaths of two innocent Afghani men by US troops.

Although this story got some exposure when it first broke a little over a year ago, you can bet that middle 'Murka and a great many war veterans just got a bit more pissed off at what is going on around the world in our name. It looks like the lid on this pressure cooker is getting that much closer to blowing right off.

The bonus was an interview with Lawrence Wilkerson, who has been a huge critic of these policies and ripped Herr Rummy a new one in stellar fashion.

But look at these quotes from the story:
The prisoners were found hanging from chains in their isolation cells. They had been beaten; one of them was "pulpified," according to the medical examiner.
And that was in the opening statement.
Habibullah and Dilawar were found dead in their cells, hanging from their chains. The military medical examiner says Dilawar’s legs were pulpified. Both autopsy reports were marked "homicide." But the Army spokesman in Afghanistan told the media that both men had died of natural causes. Medical experts say that Dilawar’s injuries were so severe that, if he had lived, both his legs would have required amputation.
What did the soldiers think of these two supposed "terrorists" and what they did to deserve imprisonment, solitary confinement, torture and death?
Even worse, one soldier testified that most of the interrogators thought Dilawar had been arrested only because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had come to believe he was just a cab driver.
But the most damning exchanges came from two interviews. One with the "low level bad apple" who was court marshalled and the other was with Wilkerson. First, Willie Brand sets the tone by spelling out the torture:
Both of them were locked in isolation cells with hoods over their heads and their arms shackled to the ceiling.

Their shackled hands, according to Brand, were at about eye level. The point of chaining them to the ceiling, Brand says, was to keep the detainees awake by not letting them lie down and sleep.

Interrogators wanted the prisoners softened up.

Asked what the longest period of time Brand saw a detainee chained like that, Brand says, "Probably about two days."

"Two days? Without a break?" Pelley asked.

"Without a break," Brand replied.

Brand says something else was thought to be acceptable in the prison: a brutal way of controlling prisoners – a knee to the common peroneal nerve in the leg, a strike with so much force behind it that the prisoner would lose muscle control and collapse in pain.

It wasn't only Willie Brand. A confidential report by the Army’s criminal investigation division accuses dozens of soldiers of abuse, including "slamming [a prisoner] into walls [and a] table," "forcing water into his mouth until he could not breathe," giving "kicks to the groin" and once, according to the report, a soldier "threatened to rape a male detainee." Soldiers even earned nicknames including "King of Torture" and "Knee of Death."
Wilkerson throws out a few gems himself, describing Colin Powell's rage, and pinning the entire condoning of torture on Rummy. According to Wilkerson:
The Secretary of State, who devoted much of his life to the Army, was enraged. As the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was breaking, Wilkerson says his boss snapped up the phone and called Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

It’s Wilkerson’s opinion that the Army chose to ignore Geneva when it issued new rules for interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"That essentially says to the troops at the bottom of the rung that you have a new game," Wilkerson says. "You can use the methods that aren’t in accordance with Geneva. You can use methods that are other than when you’ve been taught, trained and told you could use. That, that is an invitation, a license to go beyond that, especially when you’re also putting on them tremendous pressure to produce intelligence."
Guess who had no comment. But the buck passing just continues. Everyone says that their superiors knew what was going on. And every superior who was interviewed claims to have never seen any of this. And Medals of Freedom will be given to all.

See, here's the thing - there is nothing new developing in this case. It hit the news nearly a year ago. But, just as we are seeing with many other crimes and illegal activities coming to light, this too is FINALLY being made into the big deal that it should be made into.

And a LOT of people watch 60 Minutes. Especially when they need to kill an hour before the Oscars.


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