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May 23, 2004: We are the good guys - and no one seems to understand that...

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What a joke.  What an awfully sad joke the America of today is.  Or so says a friend in Europe to me.


Well, this can’t be…


A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators. 

The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees. 

Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.


And I’m sure he did. 

Well, this can’t be…

Pentagon Records Show Five Brutal Interrogation Deaths

The Denver Post has examined Pentagon records and is reporting that:


… five prisoners have died at four detention camps (including Abu Ghraib) while undergoing interrogation by the U.S. 

… at least one of the deaths was previously reported as being from natural causes …


… the soldiers got off light, mostly without criminal charges.


Here's more:

Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show. 

The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report.  The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation.  Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure. 

Another Iraqi military officer, records show, was asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands tied to the top of his cell door.  Another detainee died "while undergoing stress technique interrogation," involving smothering and "chest compressions," according to the documents.

Here are some of the techniques used:


... intelligence soldiers and other personnel have sometimes used lethal tactics to try to coax secrets from prisoners, including choking off detainees' airways.  Other abusive strategies involve sitting on prisoners or bending them into uncomfortable positions, records show. 


Even a pentagon official calls this torture:


"Torture is the only thing you can call this," said a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal investigations into prisoner abuses.  "There is a lot about our country's interrogation techniques that is very troubling.  These are violations of military law."


Well, duh.  I would guess they are! 

Here's a little more:


Internal records obtained by The Post point to wider problems beyond the Abu Ghraib prison and demonstrate that some coercive tactics used at Abu Ghraib have shown up in interrogations elsewhere in the war effort.  The documents also show more than twice as many allegations of detainee abuse - 75 - are being investigated by the military than previously known.  Twenty-seven of the abuse cases involve deaths; at least eight are believed to be homicides.  No criminal punishments have been announced in the interrogation deaths, even though three deaths occurred last year. 

....Of the detainee cases that were not homicides, commanders typically handed down lenient job-related punishments to the accused, instead of seeking criminal convictions.  Of 47 punishments given to those accused of prisoner abuse, according to the report, only 15 involved court-martial.  Criminal penalties ranged from reprimands to 60 days' confinement.


And don’t forget the women and children…


Also under investigation are reports that soldiers in Iraq abused women and children.  One April 2003 case, which is awaiting trial, involves a reservist who pointed a loaded pistol at an Iraqi child in front of witnesses, saying he should kill the youngster to "send a message" to other Iraqis.


Yep, that does tend to send a message. 

Well, the THIS can’t be…

New front in Iraq detainee abuse scandal?
NBC News exclusive: Delta Force subject of investigation; Pentagon official denies abuse

Campbell Brown - NBC News, Updated: 8:10 p.m.  ET May 20, 2004


BAGHDAD - With attention focused on the seven soldiers charged with abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. military and intelligence officials familiar with the situation tell NBC News the Army’s elite Delta Force is now the subject of a Pentagon inspector general investigation into abuse against detainees. 

The target is a top-secret site near Baghdad’s airport.  The battlefield interrogation facility known as the “BIF” is pictured in satellite photos. 

According to two top U.S. government sources, it is the scene of the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in all of Iraq’s prisons.  A place where the normal rules of interrogation don’t apply, Delta Force’s BIF only holds Iraqi insurgents and suspected terrorists — but not the most wanted among Saddam’s lieutenants pictured on the deck of cards. 

These sources say the prisoners there are hooded from the moment they are captured.  They are kept in tiny dark cells.  And in the BIF’s six interrogation rooms, Delta Force soldiers routinely drug prisoners, hold a prisoner under water until he thinks he’s drowning, or smother them almost to suffocation. 

In Washington Thursday evening, a senior Pentagon official denied allegations of prisoner abuse at Battlefield Interrogation Facilities operated by Delta Force in Iraq.  And he said the tactics described in this report are not used in those facilities.


Well, perhaps this just a misunderstanding and the reporter got it all wrong. 

We don’t do such things.  And there is no such a thing as the
Delta Force.

And more from Friday….

American forces have no answer to images of slain innocents
21.05.2004 1.00 pm - By JUSTIN HUGGLER in Baghdad


A tiny bundle of blanket is unwrapped and inside lies the body of a dead baby, its limbs smeared with dried blood.  The mourners peel back the blanket further.  Behind lies a second dead baby, wrapped tightly in the same bundle. 

Another blanket is opened and inside are the bodies of a mother and child.  The child, perhaps six or seven years old, is lying close up against his or her mother, as if seeking comfort.  But the mother's clothes are stained with blood, and the child has no head. 

These are the images American forces in Iraq had no answer to yesterday. 

They come from video footage of the burials of 41 men, women and children Iraqis say died when American planes launched air strikes on a wedding party near the Syrian border on Wednesday. 

US forces insist the air strike was on a safe house used by foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria.  They do not dispute they killed around 40, but claim American forces were returning fire and the dead were all foreign fighters. 

But to the video footage that shows dead women and children they have no answer, no explanation.  So potentially damaging is the video to the US occupation that American officials have demanded that the Dubai-based al-Arabiya television news network, which obtained the footage, give them the name of the cameraman who shot the pictures.  Al-Arabiya has refused.


Well, this is not dispassionate reporting, but you must understand the item first appeared in The Independent (UK) and those guys aren’t a happy, pro-Bush group.  But that’s an interesting demand – we demand the name of the guy with the camera.  This fellow points out the problem with whisking the evil cameraman off to Abu Ghraib…. 


US forces are sticking doggedly to this version of events in spite of rising evidence that a wedding party was hit.  More and more eyewitnesses are coming forward. 

Hussein Ali, a well-known Iraqi wedding singer, was buried in Baghdad yesterday, along his brother Mohammed.  Their family said they had been performing at the wedding when it was hit. 

The evidence US forces have put forward to back up their version of events has been demolished. 

Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt, the US military spokesman, said American soldiers had recovered guns, Syrian passports and a satellite phone at the scene of the air strikes. 

But Shiekh Nasrallah Miklif, the head of the Bani Fahd tribe to which most of the dead belonged, explained yesterday that was only natural, given where the air strike happened. 

The wedding party took place in Makradheeb, a tiny village in the desert about 25km from the Syrian border.  Every household in Iraq has a gun, usually a Kalashnikov assault rifle, to protect themselves from the lawlessness that has flourished under the US occupation.  But out in the desert, it is even more natural for the people to keep guns -- to protect themselves not only from robbers, but also from wild animals.  The villagers all worked as shepherds, and they needed to protect their flocks as well. 

… "How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilisation?" General Mattis of the US marines said yesterday. 

But the truth, according to Iraqis, is that the dead were holding the wedding in the village their had lived in all their lives. 

… According to the sheikh, by 2am when the attack started, the celebrations were finished and the guests were asleep.  There had been US helicopters in the sky earlier, but they had not fired and the wedding guests were not worried. 

General Kimmitt said yesterday: "We sent a ground force in to the location.  They were shot at.  We returned fire."

But Sheikh Mikfil claims the attack began with air strikes, without warning. 

At 2am American planes suddenly started bombing the area.  They were followed by helicopters, and after several hours of air strikes, US troops arrived in armoured vehicles and searched the devastated village. 
Contrary to earlier reports, the sheikh said there was no celebratory gunfire.  Firing guns in the air is traditional at Iraqi weddings, and it was suspected US forces had mistaken such shooting for hostile fire, as they did at a wedding party in Afghanistan where US air strikes killed more than 50 people in 2002. 

But Sheikh Mikfil says he questioned the survivors extensively on this, and they were categorical: there was no shooting in the air. 

He said the bride came from the same village, so there was no large-scale movement of people that could have aroused US suspicions. 

"If they killed foreign fighters, why don't they show us the bodies?" he asked. 

"If they suspected foreign fighters were there, why didn't they come to arrest them, instead of using this huge force?"

The sheikh says he suspects the Americans may have been acting on false intelligence information, given by some one who wants to increase the tension between Iraqis and Americans to destabilise the US occupation.


Well, this comes down to their word against ours.  The sheikh graciously allows that we might have been misled.  Perhaps we were. 

Or perhaps those pictures of the dead children were faked, or from somewhere else. 

Who are you going to believe?  We’re the good guys. 


And as of Friday…


Friday, May 21, 2004  The American Soul


The Washington Post continues to eat the New York Times' lunch on the Iraq abuse story, leading this morning with horrific details  of fine young American cannibals making their own S&M movies with reluctant Iraqi extras, as well as a new batch of photos that may cause you to toss your breakfast.


Where are the good Christians on this?  Where is the bi-partisan outrage?


What does it take for the right to admit that the Bush administration has created a monster it can't control by demonizing all Arabs in its ruthless desire to control the planet by force?


BushCo has not only made the world less safe for Americans, it has abandoned many of the principles that make our country worth saving in the first place.


What does it take for John Kerry and the rest of the Democratic Party to get involved in this life and death struggle for the soul--and survival--of our nation?



Phillip Raines, a frequent contributor to Just Above Sunset, writes –


_ Gee Alan, so many question marks, so little time.  I will take your advice and not look at the photos or S&M movies this morning of our blunder prone military putting too much power in the hands of a few bad soldiers.  None of this should startle anyone.  It was bound to go this wrong once we, or our current leaders, decided to go to war.  It would have been a clever policy to turn the management of the prison over to the coalition of the reluctant, particularly the Russians, as they seem to have a knack for interrogation and a whole lot of field experience in that area.  Then Rummy, Dick the puppeteer, and George the perplexed could just go" Wha…" their palms to the heavens as if they are catching rain.  Then the phone call  "Now Putin" or maybe an affectionate nickname "Now Pooty" and then a shuffling "Aw" from mother Russia.  And then why don’t the Dems use it for more outrage?  Because if they win and we are there it will still be as bad.  We gotta leave and it won't get better until we do.  Period.  Thanks for cheering up my morning.


And as of Saturday…


Punishment and Amusement
Documents Indicate 3 Photos Were Not Staged for Interrogation

By Scott Higham and Joe Stephens, Washington Post, Saturday, May 22, 2004; Page A01


Prisoners posed in three of the most infamous photographs of abuse to come out of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were not being softened up for interrogation by intelligence officers but instead were being punished for criminal acts or the amusement of their jailers, according to previously secret documents obtained by The Washington Post.


… Spec. Joseph M. Darby told investigators that he returned to Abu Ghraib from leave in November and heard about a shooting at the prison's "hard site," which contains Tier 1A. He said that he asked the MP in charge of the tier's night shift, Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., if he had any photographs of the cell where the shooting took place.


Darby said Graner handed him two CDs of photographs.


"I thought the discs just had pictures of Iraq, the cell where the shooting occurred," Darby told investigators.


Instead, Darby viewed hundreds of photographs showing naked detainees being abused by U.S. soldiers.


"It was just wrong," Darby said. "I knew I had to do something."


He said that he asked Graner, a Pennsylvania prison guard in civilian life, about the photographs. Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.' "


Ah, Graner is channeling his inner corrections officer.  Do we all have one inside ourselves?


Any assessment?  Well, my friends from Europe weigh in.


Emma, the Australian who has long lived in France:


Things just seem to be getting worse for everyone.


I’m sorry, guys, but I just have to rant and rage in this email.


Over here in Europe, I have not yet met anyone, nor heard anyone who has not vented their anger, expressed shock and horror in reaction to the photos and anecdotes.  I am seriously worried for Americans everywhere as the repercussions are sure to become worse.


Everyone who is not American seem to be making concerted efforts to distance themselves from the so-called land of the free where human rights and freedom of speech reign.


What a joke.  What an awfully sad joke the America of today is. 


I have great sympathy for those Americans who too like the majority of the rest of the world wish that the President of the USA along with his merry henchmen could be strung up and castrated slowly.


As for any other insensitive deluded, sick and non-rational unintelligent Christian Republicans out there... well...  they should all be rounded up and shot… as quickly as possible before the damage sets in for good.


Any anti-Bushite American is unluckily going to have to deal with the consequences of the actions of complete and utter dickheads for many, many years to come.  It is time certain Americans and avid-Bushite followers woke up to the fact that the USA is not the greatest place on earth, nor are Americans the greatest people on Earth, and nor is the country the greatest and most shining example of how a country should be run - and has been run in the past.


It is not time enough that some Americans should be woken up and their faces rubbed into the shitty piles of mess they have created around the world.


Ok, Ok - I know what the UN are like… but don’t get me started on those weak-minded backless big-fat-pay-cheque wonders... nor on the politicians who direct them through their own self interests and gains.


Ok, Ok, Ok - I am in France where the peoples revolution is the name of the game…  time maybe for another revolt against the true evils of the world who we vote in and who live it up amongst us at our own tax-paying expense.


Mmmmmm.…  I wonder if the world would be a better place if the women took over?!


Well, perhaps if the women were not all from West Virginia – or less like the lead-the-naked-prisoners around-on-a-dog-leash Lyndee English and more like the honest and kind Jessica Lynch.  If the women were like our it’s-a fine-war Condoleezza Rice?  No. I’m not sure that’s the answer.


Ric in Paris adds this in response to Emma:


Over here in Europe, I have not yet met anyone, nor heard anyone who has not vented their anger, expressed shock and horror in reaction to the photos and anecdotes.  I am seriously worried for Americans everywhere as the repercussions are sure to become worse.”


- On the other hand, you can reverse the meaning of the above paragraph and it is just as true.  The US Govt and military are in a mess, but it's not new news.  Yes, France's TV-news reports from DC say that Americans are in shock - but we can see that Palestinians are too.


Well, I fear many Americans feel that the Palestinians are getting just what they deserve – including the three-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in an Israeli raid in Gaza this weekend.


Ric, lots of people are in shock.


Ric’s summary, which also appears elsewhere in these pages:


People in New York City are worried that 'the terrorists' are going to be looking for revenge.  They are worried that they will be the target because wars no longer only pit trained soldiers in uniform against each other.  Of course the people in New York City have already been hit, so they know it can happen, and they are pretty convinced that nobody in Washington will do anything to stop it. T his is the only result - of the all-out 'war on terrorism' waged by armchair neocon hawks.


While few outside of America are 'surprised,' potential victims in America are disappointed and afraid.  They lack hope.  When New Yorkers become hopeless, this is a danger signal.


Is there anybody there with any ideas about how to get out of the mess the United States has created for itself?  Try to guess what it means if the answer is 'no.'  If 'no,' expect the folly to continue.  You have, as they say, not seen everything yet.


I am not following any of this carefully. I didn't 'follow' Vietnam either.  But if any remember it - a classic example of folly - that war wasn't over in '69; it dragged on until '74 or '75, ending with the United States escaping from Saigon with only the shirt on its back.


The United States looks like it is setting itself up for another debacle and doesn't appear to have any way of changing the course of history that it's following.  What 'friends of America' think about this is irrelevant.  What Americans think of it - well, it's your future.  It's time to sit down and think your way out of the situation.  This is not a reassuring message given the way things seem to be.


Damn, it’s hard being the good guys.






But it’s not that hard…


Iraqis lose right to sue troops over war crimes
Military win immunity pledge in deal on UN vote

Kamal Ahmed, political editor, The Observer (UK), Sunday May 23, 2004


British and American troops are to be granted immunity from prosecution in Iraq after the crucial 30 June handover, undermining claims that the new Iraqi government will have 'full sovereignty' over the state.


Despite widespread ill-feeling about the abuse of prisoners by American forces and allegations of mistreatment by British troops, coalition forces will be protected from any legal action.


They will only be subject to the domestic law of their home countries. Military sources have told The Observer that the question of immunity was central to obtaining military agreement on a new United Nations resolution on Iraq to be published by the middle of next month.


They can’t touch us.





Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....