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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Kharzai talks with Bush on troops, torture deaths

Today the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Kharzai, will hold talks with the President of the United States, George W. Bush. Items discussed will include allegations that US troops tortured two Afghan prisoners to death. Before the meeting, Kharzai will indicate that he will be requesting more control over US forces operating within his country, and Afghan prisoners held at GTMO handed over to Afghan authorities. It will be reported that the US president rebuffed these concerns.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Incident: Ministry of Interior tortures Ali with electricity, collective punishment

According to his story archived at Occupation Watch, Mustafa Mohammed Ali claims that today he was arrested by paramilitary police from the Iraqi Interior Ministry's Wolf Brigade. The Wolf Brigade and Ministry for the Interior will feature heavily in future allegations of torture and mistreatment. His arrest was one of thousands during Operation Lightning.

Four days into his detention, Ali claims that Wolf Brigade commandos attached attached electrical wires to his ear and his genitals, and generated a current with a hand-cranked military telephone. In their attempt to extract a confession, his interrogators told him his picture had been found on the camera phone of a man involved in the assassination of Iraqi politician Aqila al-Hashemi in September 2003.

Ali will state that he believes the arrests were sectarian, reflecting the reported sentiment among Sunnis that these sweeps are a form of collective punishment. Ali reports that a general addressed the detainees before their release, and told them that they should think of their detention "as a punishment for those who sympathise with the terrorists".

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Why use torture?

Today, Naomi Klein provides an explanation for why we torture people despite the poor quality of information it produces.
No one claims that torture is an effective interrogation tool--least of all the people who practice it. Torture "doesn't work. There are better ways to deal with captives," CIA director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 16. And a recently declassified memo written by an FBI official in Guantánamo states that extreme coercion produced "nothing more than what FBI got using simple investigative techniques." The Army's own interrogation field manual states that force "can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."
This is torture's true purpose: to terrorize--not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more important, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist--the individual prisoner's will and the collective will.

This is not a controversial claim. In 2001 the US NGO Physicians for Human Rights published a manual on treating torture survivors that noted: "perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualizations obscure the purpose of torture....The aim of torture is to dehumanize the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time, set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Rioting in Afghanistan after Quran desecration in GTMO

Today, rioting will begin in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. It will be triggered off by claims that pages from the Quran were flushed down toilets in Guantanamo Bay. Rioters will burn an effigies of Bush, American flags, and chant anti-US slogans. The governor's house, the Pakistan consulate, and several foreign aid agency's buildings will be set on fire. Early reports will state that 50 people will be injured and 3 dead. Witnesses report police firing into the crowd. The crowd estimated between several hundred and several thousand protesters will swell as protests spread to four provinces. By 14 May, 100 people will be injured and 16 dead.

Amidst the mayhem, Karzai will reassure the US that "It is not anti-US sentiment. It is a protest. It is a manifestation of democracy."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Two-thirds Americans ignorant of rendition

Between 16 April and 4 May, Retropoll will conduct a national telephone survey of 205 persons. Selected results pertaining to torture from the poll can be found below. Note that the poll included a knowledge-check section. According to Retro Poll's mission statement,
Retro Poll designs and performs opinion polls that look at the relationship between public knowledge and public opinion. In so doing so, Retro Poll reveals how the government and corporate media distort information in order to manipulate, confuse and disorganize the public's will.
8. The torture of people held in captivity is a war crime under U.S. law and international treaties which the U.S. has signed?

true (67.3%), false (10.7%), don't know (22.0%)

9. The International Committee of the Red Cross (in confidential reports to the United States Government) charged that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion tantamount to torture on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

true (47.3%), false (13.7%), don't know (39.0%)

10. Torture of prisoners within prisons in the U.S. is a) absent b) rare c) not uncommon d) don't know.

absent (4.4%), rare (35.1%), not uncommon (34,6%), don't know (25.9%)

13.A top secret process called rendition has been used by the CIA to fly suspects to Egypt, Morocco, Syria, or Jordan, each of which is known to use torture in their interrogations.

true (32.7%), false (5.9%), don't know (61.5%)

17. U.S. soldiers and private contractors have tortured prisoners in prisons in Iraq, Cuba and Afghanistan. Do you believe that these are the acts of a few bad apples?

yes (57.6%), no (31.2%), don't know (11.2%)

20. Do you approve or disapprove of the appointments of John Negroponte as National Intelligence Chief and Albert Gonzales as Attorney General in view of their support for the use of torture?

approve (17.1%), disapprove (52.7%), don't know (30.2%)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

US captain stands by and watches Iraqi commandos beat a detainee

Today a report by Peter Maass will be published in the New York Times. In it, the reporter will describe raids performed by joint teams of US G.I.s and Iraqi commandos. These Interior Ministry counter-insurgency commandos have been gaining increasing notoriety amongst the Iraqi civilian population for abusing, torturing, and killing detainees (ref 1, ref 2, ref 3), sometimes with the passive support of US forces. The reporter's description of an incident that occurred during the raid follows
The officer in charge of the raid -- a Major Falah -- now made it clear that he believed the detainee [they had picked up earlier in the night] had led them on a wild-goose chase. The detainee was sitting at the side of a commando truck; I was 10 feet away, beside Bennett and four G.I.'s. One of Falah's captains began beating the detainee. Instead of a quick hit or slap, we now saw and heard a sustained series of blows. We heard the sound of the captain's fists and boots on the detainee's body, and we heard the detainee's pained grunts as he received his punishment without resistance. It was a dockyard mugging. [Captain] Bennett turned his back to face away from the violence, joining his soldiers in staring uncomfortably at the ground in silence. The blows continued for a minute or so.

Bennett had seen the likes of this before, and he had worked out his own guidelines for dealing with such situations. "If I think they're going to shoot somebody or cut his finger off or do any sort of permanent damage, I will immediately stop them," he explained. "As Americans, we will not let that happen. In terms of kicking a guy, they do that all the time, punches and stuff like that." It was a tactical decision, Bennett explained: "You only get so many interventions, and I've got to save my butting in for when there is a danger it could go over the line." But even when he doesn't say anything, he explained, "they can tell we're not enjoying it. We're just kind of like, 'O.K., here we go again.'"