Revolution #222, January 16, 2011

WikiLeaks Files Shine Light on U.S. Accountability for Torture in Iraq

The files WikiLeaks released in late November reveal beyond doubt that the U.S. military in Iraq and the U.S.-controlled Iraqi army were given an official green light for the systematic use of torture, as well the cover up of those war crimes.

"Frago" ("fragmentary order") is a U.S. military term for a concise summation of longer orders. Frago 242, issued in July 2004, directed U.S. forces not to investigate any breaches of "military conduct" unless U.S. troops and those of its "coalition" were "directly involved." Frago 242 said that if an Iraqi detained by the U.S. or coalition troops was abused by another Iraqi, then "only an initial report will be made ... no further investigation will be required unless directed by headquarters."

One example of Frago 242 in effect was reported by Al Jazeera on October 24: "An alleged militant identified only as 'DAT 326' was detained by the Iraqi army on July 7, 2006 at a checkpoint in the town of Tarmiya, north of Baghdad. When US forces interrogated him later that night, he described hours of brutal abuse at the hands of the Iraqi soldiers, an allegation apparently backed by the findings of a medical exam."

The report from the exam, one of the files published by WikiLeaks, says: "DAT 326 states he was told to lay down on his stomach with his hands behind his back, which is when the Iraqi soldiers allegedly stepped, jumped, urinated and spit on him.

"[...] Injuries include blurred vision, diminished hearing in his left ear, bleeding in ears, bruising on forehead, neck, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, and thighs, cuts over the left eye and on the upper and lower lips, hemorrhaging eyes, blood in nasal cavities, and swollen hands/wrists."

Al Jazeera continued, "Since the alleged torture was committed by Iraqi forces, the US quickly dropped the case: 'Due to no allegation or evidence of US involvement, a US investigation is not being initiated,' the report said."

In other words, the Iraqi soldiers tortured their prisoner, "DAT 326," and then handed that prisoner over to their ringleaders, the U.S. military. The U.S. forces were perfectly aware of what had happened to the prisoner—they just had their Iraqi underlings carry out the actual dirty work. And all this was in line with official U.S. policy.

The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported (October 22, 2010) that "other logs record not merely assaults but systematic torture. A man who was detained by Iraqi soldiers in an underground bunker reported that he had been subjected to the notoriously painful strappado position: with his hands tied behind his back, he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists. The soldiers had then whipped him with plastic piping and used electric drills on him. The log records that the man was treated by U.S. medics; the paperwork was sent through the necessary channels; but yet again, no investigation was required."

The WikiLeaks files reveal that prisoners were also routinely burned with cigarettes, electrocuted, raped, and beaten with any available implement, such as steel rods, wire cables, television antennas, chains, water pipes, fan belts, and rubber hoses, as well as fists and feet. Some were executed.

According to the Guardian, one WikiLeaks file tells of a U.S. Army log that contains "an official account of deliberate threats by a military interrogator to turn his captive over to the Iraqi 'Wolf Brigade.' The interrogator told the prisoner in explicit terms that: 'He would be subject to all the pain and agony that the Wolf battalion is known to exact upon its detainees.'"

Not long after the torture of "DAT 326," U.S. president George W. Bush was interviewed by Katie Couric of CBS News in a national broadcast, "We have to have the capacity to interrogate—not torture, but interrogate people to learn information ...I've said to the people that we don't torture, and we don't." ("Bush: 'We Don't Torture,'" CBS News September 7, 2006)

Bush brazenly and blatantly lied. Orders like Frago 242 came directly from the U.S. military leadership down through its chain of command. And these orders—and the justifications for torture—originated at the highest levels of the Bush administration. None of these officials has been charged for their war crimes—even as the current administration is working feverishly to persecute and possibly indict WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, and accused leaker U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning has been held in isolation and tortured in military prisons for seven months.

Torture is built into the "way of fighting" of the U.S. military, and a big part of what the WikiLeaks files have shown is how systematic, widespread, and commonplace these atrocities have become for the U.S. military—a military that combines the use of the most modern technology such as pilotless drone bombers, robot sensors, long range surveillance, and ballistic missiles with crude and savage means of torture and domination—all in pursuit of preserving and extending its domination of much of the planet.

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