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Monday, November 28, 2005

International support for torture high

Between 15 and 28 November, approximately 1000 people from each of 9 countries were polled by IPSOS Public Affairs for The Associated Press. Results (ordered by support for torture) are shown below.

How do you feel about the use of torture against suspected terrorists to obtain information about terrorism activities? Can that be justified...?

Often Sometimes Rarely Never Unsure
% % % % %
Italy 9 14 14 60 3
Spain 7 14 16 54 9
Canada 9 19 21 49 2
UK 9 21 21 48 1
Germany 8 22 20 48 2
France 12 20 25 40 3
Mexico 9 22 18 40 11
US 11 27 23 36 3
S. Korea 6 47 33 10 4

Would you support or oppose allowing the United States to secretly interrogate suspected terrorists in (Country) to try to obtain information about terrorist activities?

Support Oppose Unsure
% % %
Mexico 13 78 9
S. Korea 25 71 4
Spain 22 66 12
Canada 35 63 2
UK 34 62 4
Germany 36 60 4
France 36 60 4
Italy 35 55 10
US 63 32 5

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Allawi: "same as Saddam's time"

Today, a report for The Observer will quote Iyad Allawi criticising the new Iraqi governments human abuses. The former appointed Interim Prime Minister of Iraq will be quoted as saying
People are doing the same as Saddam's time and worse. ... It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.
The article quotes him urging attention to the issue
He said that immediate action was needed to dismantle militias that continue to operate with impunity. If nothing is done, 'the disease infecting [the Ministry of the Interior] will become contagious and spread to all ministries and structures of Iraq's government', he said.

In a chilling warning to the West over the danger of leaving behind a disintegrating Iraq, Allawi added: 'Iraq is the centrepiece of this region. If things go wrong, neither Europe nor the US will be safe.'

It is noted that the first incident of Interior Ministry abuse recorded on this blog was in July 2004, less than one month after Allawi began his role as Interim Prime Minister. The abuses continued throughout the period in which he governed.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Brian Conley from the Alive in Baghdad site provides a valuable independent media resource. It is all run out of pocket and from donations. He respectfully asks that, if you find his work useful and can spare it, even $5 or $10 will be gratefully received.

You can go here to donate.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One third Arizonans oppose anti-torture legislation

Today a KAET-TV poll conducted in Arizona will be reported on. Respondents were asked if they support proposed federal legislation that would ban the use of torture against terrorists, even if there is reason to believe they may have information that could save American lives. 55% said they supported the ban, 36% say they opposed the legislation, and 9% said they had no opinion.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

CIA vets warn of psychological consequences to torturers

Today, the National Journal will write an article summarising recent opposition to torture from high-profile retired CIA officers. Reasons for their opposition include: that it is inconsistent with America's identity, that it makes alliances difficult, and that it effects the officers psychologically.

Quoting from the article

Burton L. Gerber, a decorated Moscow station chief who retired in 1995 after 39 years with the CIA, surprised some in the audience when he said he opposes torture "because it corrupts the society that tolerates it." This is a view, he confirmed in an interview with National Journal last week ... "The reason I believe that torture corrupts the torturers and society," Gerber says, "is that a standard is changed, and that new standard that's acceptable is less than what our nation should stand for. I think the standards in something like this are crucial to the identity of America as a free and just society."

... A similar stance was articulated last year by Merle L. Pribbenow, a 27-year veteran of the agency's clandestine Directorate of Operations.

... "as Americans, must not let our methods betray our goals," he said. "There is nothing wrong with a little psychological intimidation, verbal threats, bright lights and tight handcuffs, and not giving a prisoner a soft drink and a Big Mac every time he asks for them. There are limits, however, beyond which we cannot and should not go if we are to continue to call ourselves Americans. America is as much an ideal as a place, and physical torture of the kind used by the Vietnamese (North as well as South) has no place in it."

(This may be contrasted with Naomi Klein's observation that torture has been integral to US foreign policy since the Vietnam war, and Pribbenow's observations in the article).

Apart from America's need to feel consistent with its own ideals, Gerber also notes that this ideal is useful for forming alliances. Quoting from the article

"Foreign nationals agree to spy for us for many different reasons; some do it out of an overwhelming admiration for America and what it stands for, and to those people, I think, America being associated with torture does affect their willingness to work with us," he says.
Finally, Pribbenow uses his work on the history of the Vietnamese war to shed light on the psychology of the torturer
"If you talk to people who have been tortured, that gives you a pretty good idea not only as to what it does to them, but what it does to the people who do it," he said. "One of my main objections to torture is what it does to the guys who actually inflict the torture. It does bad things. I have talked to a bunch of people who had been tortured who, when they talked to me, would tell me things they had not told their torturers, and I would ask, 'Why didn't you tell that to the guys who were torturing you?' They said that their torturers got so involved that they didn't even bother to ask questions." Ultimately, he said -- echoing Gerber's comments -- "torture becomes an end unto itself."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Psychology of US torturers at Bagram

After describing US guards at Bagram beating a detainee to death, former detainee Moazzam Begg will provide insight into the psychological mechanisms that allow US military personnel to torture people. The exposition will be strongly reminiscent of the findings of the famous Stanford prison experiment (where othering and institutional support precipitated perverse and sadistic behaviour by ordinary men playing `guards' against their `prisoners'). After describing the murder, Begg says,
I spoke to one of the soldiers who used to get along quite well with me and he told me exactly what he'd done, why he'd done it and how he'd done it. This soldier I'd met in Kandahar and he was one of the few who used to speak to me quite regularly and I was so amazed that he was so candid about telling me how he'd done this and why he'd done this and why he felt it was completely justified and almost vindicated himself by the fact that he's telling me.

And one of the guards there of that unit told me when I used to have discussions with them, that when we see you people we can't look at you as human beings. Our psyche does not allow us to do that - because if we did we wouldn't treat you this way. It's easy for us to dehumanise you. First of all most of you guys don't speak the same language. Secondly, you look different. Thirdly, you're dressed different. Fourthly, you're in cages and we're out here with the guns.

Hamra bombing retaliation against Interior Ministry torture

Today two suicide car-bombs will detonate next to the Hamra Hotel, killing 17. Western press will quote U.S. Brig. Gen. Karl Horst telling reporters "I think the target was the Hamra Hotel" where Western news organisations are held, and Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal saying that the target was not the Interior Ministry next-door. However non-Western press will note that there are conflicting reports about the intended target, and will remind readers about torture committed at the Interior Ministry as possible motive.

In January, Abu Musab al-Zarqawis organization, Al Qaeda in Iraq, will claim responsibility for the attack in a video. According to those who have watched video in Arabic

Why attack the compound? The video claims it was in retaliation for the torture of Sunnis at the hands of the Shiite-led Ministry of Interior as well as for the deaths of Iraqi officers by Americans interrogators. They also saw the compound as a den of foreign intelligence, the Badr Brigade and housing for Kurdish pesh merga and Western security companies.

Further reading, opinions and commentary:

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

173 prisoners found tortured by Iraqi Interior Ministry

Today further evidence will be reported through various international media sources of systemic abuse and torture of detainees by the new Iraqi government's Interior Ministry and affiliated militias.

It is reported that 173 (some reports have 170 to 200) prisoners, all or mostly Sunnis, were found in the basement of a building in Baghdad's neighborhood of Jadriyah in an Interior Ministry building. There are suspicions that the building may also have been used as a base for a militia called the Badr Brigade, and that such militias may have infiltrated Iraq's security services.

The detainees were found during a raid by U.S. Army and Iraqi troops, who were looking for a missing 15-year-old boy at the time.

The detainees were starved and showed signs of torture. Iraq's Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Kamal is quoted as saying

This is the worst and cannot be denied. I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralysed and some had their skin peeled off various parts of their bodies.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari promised to get to the bottom of the issue, and a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry stressed that the abuse at the facility was counter to the wishes of the Jafari government. The U.S. Embassy and multinational forces then promptly congratulated Jafari for his commitment to investigate the abuse (ref).

Update: In several days time, Interior Minister Bayn Jabr will be quoted as saying that "those who are supporting terrorism are making the exaggerations" about the torture, and that only seven detainees showed signs of abuse.

This report adds to the already substantial evidence of torture by the new Iraqi government's Interior Ministry, which has been occurring since at least July 2004, sometimes in the presence of, and with the apparent approval of, U.S. military forces.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Three quarters Americans suspect govt uses torture, one third support it

Between 11 and 13 November, CNN/USA Today/Gallup will conduct a poll of about 500 American adults nationwide. Below are answers to questions pertaining to torture.

"Just your best guess: Do you think U.S. troops or government officials have or have not tortured prisoners in Iraq or other countries?" Form A (N=491, MoE ± 5)

Have Have not Unsure
% % %
74 20 6

"Would you be willing or not willing to have the U.S. government torture suspected terrorists if they may know details about future terrorist attacks against the U.S.?" Form B (N=515, MoE ± 5)

Willing Not willing Unsure
% % %
38 56 6

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Nearly two thirds of Americans say torture can be justified

The results of a Newsweek Poll conducted between 10 and 11 November 2005 are shown in the table below. Please note the wording of the questions, which is discussed in the comments section (thanks to Tedeger for pointing this out).

"Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, can sometimes be justified, can rarely be justified, or can never be justified?"
Often Sometimes Rarely Never
justified justified justified justified Unsure
% % % % %
Republicans 25 34 14 24 3
Democrats 11 25 20 40 4
Independents 17 25 21 31 6
All adults 17 27 18 33 5

"Would you support the use of torture by U.S. military or intelligence personnel if it might lead to the prevention of a major terrorist attack, or not?"
Would support Would not support Unsure
% % %
58 35 7

"What if the use of torture by the United States makes it more likely that Americans will be tortured by our enemies? Would you support the use of torture under these circumstances, or not?"
Would support Would not support Unsure
% % %
36 57 7

"Do you think the recent allegations about the use of torture by the United States have hurt this country's image around the world a lot, somewhat, not too much, or not at all?"
A lot Somewhat Not too much Not at all Unsure
% % % % %
39 34 13 10 4

file under: Public support

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Photos from Haj Ali

Amazing the things you can stumble on through flickr. The following picture is "aliveinbaghdad's" photostream.

According to an account on the Alive in Baghdad blog, the photographs were obtained through Haj Ali. Haj Ali is better known as the hooded guy from Abu Ghraib. He's since gone on to found The Association of the Victims of American Occupation Prisons.

As regular readers of my blog know, the "new" Iraqi government has been habitually abducting, torturing, and killing detainees on a regular basis. Haj Ali presents these photographs as evidence of these abuses, which are being committed by govt run militias and police forces like the Interior Ministry's Wolf Brigade.

The full set can be accessed here. Other photographs can be found here.