Thursday, December 09, 2004


The US Army's response to Abu Ghraib and other allegations of torture is to blame it on "bad apples", rogue soldiers acting contrary to orders who will be prosecuted for their crimes under military law. But how do they treat soldiers with a sense of decency who take that seriously, and who report abuse by their comrades? The story of Sgt Frank Ford is enlightening. Ford was a member of the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed in Samarra;

[a]ccording 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 followed procedures, first approaching his team leader, and then working his way up the chain of command. His superior's response was swift; Ford was forcibly strapped to a gurney and medevaced from Iraq as "delusional". So much for military law.

Just in case anybody thinks this is an isolated incident, there's this story on Yahoo:

U.S. special forces accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq threatened Defense Intelligence Agency personnel who saw the mistreatment, according to U.S. government memos released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The special forces also monitored e-mails sent by defense personnel and ordered them "not to talk to anyone" in the United States about what they saw, said one memo written by the Defense Intelligence Agency chief, who complained to his Pentagon bosses about the harassment.

The story also reports that FBI agents at Abu Ghraib complained to their superiors abotu the abuse there - and yet nothing was done until the story hit the media in May this year. They also complained about torture at Guantanamo - and point the finger squarely at Major General Miller, who was later moved to Abu Ghraib:

One FBI e-mail released by the ACLU said Miller "continued to support interrogation strategies (the FBI) not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness."


In the July 14 letter obtained by the AP, Harrington suggested that the Pentagon didn't act on FBI complaints about four incidents at Guantanamo, including a female interrogator grabbing a detainee's genitals and bending back his thumbs, another where most of a prisoner's head was covered with duct tape and a third where a dog was used to intimidate a detainee who later was thrown into isolation and showed signs of "extreme psychological trauma."

The military's response? Nothing. Despite the claim of a Navy officer that "[w]e take all issues of detainee abuse very seriously and where there is the potential that these abuses could have taken place, we investigate them", nothing whatsoever was done about these complaints and eyewitness reports. I think that speaks for itself about the US military's attitude towards torture.