Monday, April 24, 2006

Did US indifference on recent Iraqi prison torture flame civil war?

Recommended at Booman Tribune

So much for a "few bad apples" or no civil war in Iraq. According to today's WaPo, we have this news about more torture at several Iraqi prisons:
"At one of the sites, thirteen detainees showed signs of abuse that required immediate medical care. The signs of abuse included broken bones, indications that they had been beaten with hoses and wires, signs that they had been hung from the ceiling, and cigarette burns.


"There were several cases of physical abuse at one other inspection site. These included evidence of scars, missing toenails, dislocated shoulders, severe bruising, and cigarette burns. At the time of the inspection, most of the apparent injuries were months old; however, there were indications that three cases of abuse occurred within a week of the inspection.


And it looks like the US turned a blind eye towards this last year because of political pressure from Shiites before the December 15 Iraqi elections.


So much for "winning the hearts and minds" in Iraq. And a tidbit in the WaPo article provides some real damning proof that the administration's willful actions with respect to ignoring the prison torture (for political reasons due to the December 15 Iraqi elections) may have greatly increased the likelihood and contributed to the civil war, which broke out in earnest with the February bombing of a mosque.


These new revelations come on the heels of a joint US/Iraq inspection and tour of six Iraqi torture chambers "detention facilities" since last November. Among the signs of extreme abuse and torture (in addition to what was noted above) include:

"Numerous bruises on the arms, legs and feet. A lot of the Iraqis had separated shoulders and problems with their hands and fingers too. You could also see strap marks on some of their backs."


Now, it is unclear as to whether the torture is being done by the US, by the Shiite Iraqi guards, or both. But it certainly is clear that there is not nearly enough being done to stop this from happening. The US is supposed to be training the Iraqi corrections officers, is responsible for perpetuating the torture with the examples set for the past few years, as well as the lack of oversight in the prisons.


In fact, we have this incredible exchange by Rummy and Lt. Col. Kevin Curry, spokesman for U.S. detention operations late last year:

This practice of leaving the detainees in place has raised concerns that detainees now face additional threats. It has also prompted fresh questions from the inspectors about whether the United States has honored a pledge by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that U.S. troops would attempt to stop inhumane treatment if they saw it.


Pace said at a news conference Nov. 29 with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, "It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it." Turning to Pace, Rumsfeld responded: "I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it."


"If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it," Pace answered.


The Iraqi official familiar with the joint inspections said detainees who are not moved to other facilities are left vulnerable. "They tell us, 'If you leave us here, they will kill us,' " said the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because, he said, he and other Iraqis involved with inspections had received death threats.


What makes matters worse is that this seems to be at least a partial direct result of the lack of planning or outright denial of a civil war brewing. If you deny the problem exists, that doesn't mean that people aren't killing or torturing each other. In fact, today's news finds 7 car bombs exploding in Baghdad - at a university, a marketplace, near police patrols and by government buildings and at least 20 bodies found that were killed as a result of "sectarian violence" (read: civil war). The torture found in the prisons are mainly found at prisons run by the Interior Ministry, which just so happens to be "Shiite-dominated".


In the WaPo article, there is a very disturbing comment that indicates that the US not only knew about the torture and abuse, but did nothing to stop it because the Iraqi elections were coming up and they didn't want to interfere until after the elections. However, even after the elections, nothing was done to help these prisoners.


Holy shit.


So does this mean that the fa├žade of "free and fair" elections was more important to Dear Leader and his merry band of criminals than actually stopping an environment of killing, torture and civil war.


Actually, don't answer that.


Since the elections were in mid-December, and the first true sign of a civil war occurred a couple of months later when the mosque was bombed in February, you wonder if this wasn't something that could have increased the ill-will between the Sunnis and Shiites that ultimately led to the full blown civil war that we are starting to see. According to the article:

The two sources involved in the joint inspections said the visits after November included an Interior Ministry detention center in Baghdad, which was inspected twice; a Defense Ministry site near the Green Zone; an Interior Ministry site in the city of Kut; an Interior Ministry site in the Muthanna neighborhood of Baghdad; and a "maximum crimes facility" in Baghdad.


The two sources said that at three of those sites, prisoners were being held by the Wolf Brigade, one of the Interior Ministry commando forces most feared by Sunnis.


The inspections occurred within a 2 to 5 week increment between early December through the end of March, and as expected, were pretty much dismissed by the administration's "spokesman":

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the main U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, broadly denied in remarks to U.S. reporters in Baghdad that any abuse had been found at any of the centers since the initial raid on Nov. 13.


"In these facilities that we did inspect unannounced, we saw no signs of abuse," Lynch told reporters at a briefing March 30. "The facilities were, by our standards, overcrowded, but the people being held at those facilities were being properly taken care of; they were being fed, they had water, they were taken care of. So no abuse, no evidence of torture in those facilities."


Unbelieveable. It is one thing to ignore warnings that a civil war was likely to break out. It is another to actively (or passively) assist in exacerbating the already volatile situation in Iraq by ignoring prison torture and doing nothing to get the prisoners out of the way of more torture.


Another day, another set of war crimes that we find out about.

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