Thursday, March 07, 2013

Iraq's US-backed torture squads

When Iraq descended into a torturefest in 2004, the US invaders pretended it was nothing to do with them. As usual, They lied:

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country's descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.

After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.

Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.

And under their direction, those police commando units turned into death squads, disappearing, torturing and murdering thousands. Which is pretty much exactly what Steele had done in El Salvador. People were abducted from their homes, beaten, raped, struck with electric cables and hosepipes, burned, flayed, had holes drilled in them with handheld drills, electrocuted, strapadoed, all in the name of "fighting" (by spreading) terror. The still-handcuffed bodies were dumped with the trash.

Rumsfeld and Petraeus weren't giving the orders or deciding who specifically would be targeted, but through their underlings they set the policies which transformed these militias into pro-US death squads. They thus bear command responsibility for every atrocity committed by those under their control. And it is time the international community put them in the dock and held them to account.