November 18, 2005

Our Monsters In Iraq

by Robert Dreyfuss

It is time to start waving the bloody shirt. There is no longer any doubt that the men that the United States has installed in power in Iraq are monsters. Not only that, but they are monsters armed, trained and supported by George W. Bush's administration. The very same Bush administration that defends torture of captives in the so-called War on Terrorism is using 150,000 U.S. troops to support a regime in Baghdad for which torture, assassination and other war crimes are routine.

So far, it appears that the facts are these: that Iraq's interior ministry, whose top officials, strike forces and police commando units (including the so-called Wolf Brigade) are controlled by paramilitary units from Shiite militias, maintained a medieval torture chamber; that inside that facility, hundreds of mostly Sunni Arab men were bestialized, with electric drills skewering their bones, with their skins flayed off, and more; that roving units of death-squad commandos are killing countless other Sunni Arab men in order to terrorize the Iraqi opposition. Even the Washington Post, that last-ditch defender of America's illegal and unprovoked assault on Iraq, says:

Scandal over the secret prison has forced the seven-month-old Shiite-led government to confront growing charges of mass illegal detentions, torture and killings of Sunni men. Members of the Sunni minority, locked in a struggle with the Shiite majority over the division of power in Iraq, say men dressed in Interior Ministry uniforms have repeatedly rounded up Sunni men from neighborhoods and towns. Bodies of scores of them have been found dumped by roadsides or in gullies. . . .
Nearly two years ago, writing in the American Prospect, I wrote the following: "The Prospect has learned that part of a secret $3 billion in new funds - tucked away in the $87 billion Iraq appropriation that Congress approved in early November - will go toward the creation of a paramilitary unit manned by militiamen associated with former Iraqi exile groups...The bulk of the covert money will support U.S. efforts to create a lethal, and revenge-minded, Iraqi security force." Except for a parallel story by Sy Hersh in the New Yorker, the story was ignored.

Over the past two years, writing for, I have repeatedly written about Shiite death squads and about abuses by the paramilitary Badr Brigade, the secret army trained and run by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Iraqi Sunnis and opposition leaders, including Aiham Al Sammarae (as I wrote for TomPaine) have charged that the Iraqi government has been running assassination teams. . . .


"Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death," ACFTV, February 4, 2003

John Pilger, "The Unthinkable is Becoming Normal," Independent, April 20, 2003

Julian Borger, "U.S. Military in Torture Scandal," Guardian, April 30, 2004

Tony Kevin, "Fallujah: All the Makings of a War Crime," Sydney Morning Herald, November 6, 2004

Michael Hirsh and John Barry, "'The Salvador Option'," Newsweek, January 10, 2005

Kim Sengupta, "The Dirty War: Torture and mutilation used on Iraqi 'insurgents'," Independent, November 20, 2005

[The accounts have hinted at the beginning of a march back toward the horrors of Saddam Hussein: police death squads and shadowy militias, masked men and middle-of-the-night raids, bodies dumped by roadsides, and an archipelago of makeshift prisons like the one that was raided, just a mile from the main American command center in the capital.--John F. Burns, "In the Dark: It's Still a Mystery," New York Times, November 20, 2005]

[OF ALL THE bloodshed in Iraq, none may be more disturbing than the campaign of torture and murder being conducted by U.S.-trained government police forces.--Editorial: "Iraq's Death Squads," Washington Post, December 4, 2005]

[The "death squads" as they have come to be called are getting more active with just a week to go before the December 15 election.--Dahr Jamail and Harb al-Mukhtar, "The government men in masks who terrorize Iraq," Inter Press Service, December 7, 2005]

[An hour and a half's drive from where Bush stood, the US military ran the notorious School of the Americas from 1946 to 1984, a sinister educational institution that, if it had a motto, might have been "We do torture". It is here in Panama, and later at the school's new location in Fort Benning, Georgia, where the roots of the current torture scandals can be found.

According to declassified training manuals, SOA students - military and police officers from across the hemisphere - were instructed in many of the same "coercive interrogation" techniques that have since gone to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib: early morning capture to maximise shock, immediate hooding and blindfolding, forced nudity, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, sleep and food "manipulation", humiliation, extreme temperatures, isolation, stress positions - and worse. In 1996 President Clinton's Intelligence Oversight Board admitted that US-produced training materials condoned "execution of guerrillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion and false imprisonment".--Naomi Klein, "The US has used torture for decades," Guardian, December 10, 2005]

James Risen, "State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration," Free Press (January 3, 2006)

[Could secret paramilitary groups be adding to the violence and lawlessness in Iraq?-- Firas Al-Atraqchi, "Who's behind the kidnaps?," Al-Ahram Weekly, February 9 - 15, 2006]

Brian Conley and Isam Rashid, "Siniyah: an Iraqi town that is now a prison," Dawn, February 11, 2006

Tom Walker Rabat and Sarah Baxter, "Revealed: the terror prison US is helping build in Morocco," Sunday Times, February 12, 2006

Sarah Baxter and Michael Smith, "CIA chief sacked for opposing torture," Sunday Times, February 12, 2006

"Iraq 'death squad caught in act'," BBC News, February 16, 2006

[Back in Haynes's office, on the third floor of the Pentagon, there was a stack of papers chronicling a private battle that Mora had waged against Haynes and other top Administration officials, challenging their tactics in fighting terrorism. Some of the documents are classified and, despite repeated requests from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, have not been released. One document, which is marked "secret" but is not classified, is a twenty-two-page memo written by Mora. It shows that three years ago Mora tried to halt what he saw as a disastrous and unlawful policy of authorizing cruelty toward terror suspects.--Jane Meyer, "The Memo: How an internal effort to ban the abuse and torture of detainees was thwarted," New Yorker, February 27, 2006]

Mike McDonough, "'14 ,000 detained without trial in Iraq'," Guardian, March 6, 2006

[And here is what the American colonel replied: "Mr Abbasi, your conduct is unacceptable and this is your absolute final warning. I do not care about international law. I do not want to hear the words international law. We are not concerned about international law."--Robert Fisk, "The farcical end of the American dream," Independent, March 18, 2006]

[A 150,000-strong private security force, raised and trained by the US, is linked to the murderous death squads stalking Iraq, the country's Interior Minister claimed yesterday.--Kim Sengupta, "Iraqi Interior Minister denies running Shia death squads," Independent, April 13, 2006]

[The US should close any secret "war on terror" detention facilities abroad and the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba, a United Nations report has said. . . . Detaining people in such conditions was a violation of the UN Convention against Torture--"US 'must end secret detentions'," BBC News, May 19, 2006

VIDEO: "Iraq Veteran Speaks Out On War Crimes,", May 21, 2006

"West's 'terror deceptions' rapped," BBC News, May 23, 2006

[The killing of 24 civilians in Haditha has reminded America of another massacre that tarnished its reputation 38 years ago.--Rupert Cornwell, "War crimes: My Lai is a lesson from history," Independent, May 29, 2006]

[Could Haditha be just the tip of the mass grave? The corpses we have glimpsed, the grainy footage of the cadavers and the dead children; could these be just a few of many? Does the handiwork of America's army of the slums go further?--Robert Fisk, "On the shocking truth about the American occupation of Iraq," Independent, June 3, 2006]

[Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which covers all prisoners, whether they meet the common definition of prisoners of war or are the sort of prisoners the administration classifies as "unlawful enemy combatants," . . . prohibits the use of torture and other overt acts of violence. But Mr. Bush's civilian lawyers removed it from the military rulebook--Editorial: "Degrading America's Image," New York Times, June 6, 2006]

Demetri Sevastopulo, "US reverses policy on military detainee protection," Financial Times, July 11, 2006

[And when he says the United States doesn't torture and I never authorize torture, that is a very interesting word play, because all of the government's documents, all of the White House documents, go to this issue of redefining torture in a way that we don't define it in the United States or in the world. And that definition says torture only occurs when someone's at the risk of immediate full organ failure or death. So that's the word "torture" that the president is using. That's not our constitutional definition of torture. That's not the international definition of torture.--Barbara Olshansky, "As CIA Detainees Transferred to Guantanamo, President Bush Acknowledges Secret Prisons,", September 7, 2006]

[If estimates of other, unquantified, deaths - of insurgents, the Iraq military during the 2003 invasion, those not recorded individually by Western media, and those dying from wounds - are included, then the toll could reach as high as 180,000.--David Randall and Emily Gosden, "62, 006 - the number killed in the 'war on terror'," Independent, May 23, 2006]

Robert Fisk, "The American Military's Cult of Cruelty," Independent, September 16, 2006

[The Bush Administration angrily rejected a claim by a United Nations official today that more Iraqis are being tortured now than when Saddam Hussein was in power.--Tim Reid, "Iraq torture report by UN angers Washington,", September 21, 2006]

VIDEO: Guantanamo will be a name connected with American torture of prisoners the same way as Auschwitz is connected with Germany.--"Interview with Benjamin Ferencz, Prosecutor at Nuremberg Trials," Frontal21, March 20, 2007

[ . . . there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.--Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti, " Advisers Fault Harsh Methods in Interrogation," New York Times, May 30, 2007]

Molly Moore, "Report Gives Details on CIA Prisons NATO Pacts Exploited, European Probe Finds," Washington Post, June 9, 2007

David Cole, "Bush's torture ban is full of loopholes," Salon, July 2007

[President Bush and his aides have not only condoned torture and abuse at secret prisons, but they have conducted a systematic campaign to mislead Congress, the American people and the world about those policies.--Editorial: "On Torture and American Values," New York Times, October 7 2007]

Nick Juliano, "New book says US uses 'methods of the most tyrannical regimes',", October 22, 2007

[The whistleblower's testimony is the most serious attack to date on the military panels, which were meant to give a fig-leaf of legitimacy to the interrogation and detention policies at Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. The major has taken part in 49 status review panels.--Leonard Doyle, "Guantanamo military lawyer breaks ranks to condemn 'unconscionable' detention ," Independent, October 27, 2007]

EDITORIAL: "The View From the Waterboard: A former Justice lawyer did his homework - and raised a red flag.," Washington Post, November 6, 2007

[A bipartisan panel of senators has concluded that former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials bear direct responsibility for the harsh treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and that their decisions led to more serious abuses in Iraq and elsewhere.--Joby Warrick and Karen DeYoung, "Report on Detainee Abuse Blames Top Bush Officials," Washington Post, December 12, 2008]

["It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on. . . . Under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving."--Justin Raimondo, "American Death Squad,", May 19, 2009]

Michael S. Schmidt, "Junkyard Gives Up Secret Accounts of Massacre in Iraq,", December 14, 2011

Tara McKelvey, "'I hated myself for Abu Ghraib abuse',", May 16, 2018


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