Torture talk

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Torture is not an American value. How can beating a helpless man with a baseball bat ever be amusing? I hope these soldiers end up in the stockade. I don't think too many soldiers ever act on their own without tacit approval, at the least, from their superior officers. The stench goes all the way to the White House.

3 in 82nd Airborne Say Beating Iraqi Prisoners Was Routine
The soldiers told a human rights group that prisoners had been beaten and abused to help gather intelligence and for amusement.

The details turn my stomach. God forbid the tables are ever turned, but if it happened, who could blame Iraqis for torturing Americans? Aren't we all members of the human race?

In separate statements to the human rights organization, Captain Fishback and two sergeants described systematic abuses of Iraqi prisoners, including beatings, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, stacking in human pyramids and sleep deprivation at Camp Mercury, a forward operating base near Falluja. Falluja was the site of the major uprising against the American-led occupation in April 2004. The report describes the soldiers' positions in the unit, but not their names.

The abuses reportedly took place between September 2003 and April 2004, before and during the investigations into the notorious misconduct at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. Senior Pentagon officials initially sought to characterize the scandal there as the work of a rogue group of military police soldiers on the prison's night shift. Since then, the Army has opened more than 400 inquiries into detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, and punished 230 enlisted soldiers and officers.

In the newest case, the human rights organization interviewed three soldiers: one sergeant who said he was a guard and acknowledged abusing some prisoners at the direction of military intelligence personnel; another sergeant who was an infantry squad leader who said he had witnessed some detainees' being beaten; and the captain who said he had seen several interrogations and received regular reports from noncommissioned officers on the ill treatment of detainees.

In one incident, the Human Rights Watch report states, an off-duty cook broke a detainee's leg with a metal baseball bat. Detainees were also stacked, fully clothed, in human pyramids and forced to hold five-gallon water jugs with arms outstretched or do jumping jacks until they passed out, the report says. “We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them,” one sergeant told Human Rights Watch researchers during one of four interviews in July and August. “This happened every day.”

The sergeant continued: “Some days we would just get bored, so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did it for amusement.”
He said he had acted under orders from military intelligence personnel to soften up detainees, whom the unit called persons under control, or PUC's, to make them more cooperative during formal interviews.

“They wanted intel,” said the sergeant, an infantry fire-team leader who served as a guard when no military police soldiers were available. “As long as no PUC's came up dead, it happened.” He added, “We kept it to broken arms and legs.”

The soldiers told Human Rights Watch that while they were serving in Afghanistan, they learned the stress techniques from watching Central Intelligence Agency operatives interrogating prisoners.

Captain Fishback, who has served combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, gave Human Rights Watch and Senate aides his long account only after his efforts to report the abuses to his superiors were rebuffed or ignored over 17 months, according to Senate aides and John Sifton, one of the Human Rights Watch researchers who conducted the interviews. Moreover, Captain Fishback has expressed frustration at his civilian and military leaders for not providing clear guidelines for the proper treatment of prisoners.

In a Sept. 16 letter to the senators, Captain Fishback, wrote, “Despite my efforts, I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment.”

...Interrogators pressed guards to beat up prisoners, and one sergeant recalled watching a particular interrogator who was a former Special Forces soldier beating the detainee himself. “He would always say to us, 'You didn't see anything, right?' ” the sergeant said. “And we would always say, 'No, sergeant.' ” One of the sergeants told Human Rights Watch that he had seen a soldier break open a chemical light stick and beat the detainees with it. “That made them glow in the dark, which was real funny, but it burned their eyes, and their skin was irritated real bad,” he said.

A second sergeant, identified as an infantry squad leader and interviewed twice in August by Human Rights Watch, said, “As far as abuse goes, I saw hard hitting.” He also said he had witnessed how guards would force the detainees “to physically exert themselves to the limit.”

Some soldiers beat prisoners to vent their frustrations, one sergeant said, recalling an instance when an off-duty cook showed up at the detention area and ordered a prisoner to grab a metal pole and bend over. “He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini-Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat.”

Even after the Abu Ghraib scandal became public, one of the sergeants said, the abuses continued. “We still did it, but we were careful,” he told the human rights group.

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1 Comment

When the Abhu Ghraib revelations first surfaced I was inclined to believe that a minority of boneheads were behind it and I also felt a lot of the "torture" allegations were being hyped. However the recent revelations that have surfaced suggest a deeper and more prevasive problem.

It now appears that torture was used as a tool to humiliate others in a random and completely gratuitous fashion - for reasons of power and control basically. This is quite different from applying pressure to a suspect who has knowledge that within an hour a bomb will detonate in a mall killing and wounding hundreds. In such a case I would say do whatever it takes to extract information about the whereabouts of the device.

To suggest that American methods can't be compared to the very real torture of regimes such as Iran isn't the point. Given the apparent extent of this problem we can't off-load responsibility by simply saying "its worse over there".

Recently Hitchens in fact used the term "moral Chernobyl".

When the Bush administration presumes to be an exporter of "freedom and democracy" to other countries it better make damn certain that its representitives are above this type of mass descent into moral idiocy.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on September 24, 2005 8:52 AM.

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