Thursday, August 20, 2009

WWB: homicide by torture

WHAT WAR BRINGS: homicide by torture

In all wars, and all occupations, people are captured or kidnapped and then tortured to death. This certainly happened in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq. And it was done by the occupation forces, and local militias, the resistance, and in Iraq by the elected government.

A researcher for Human Rights Watch reported on homicides that resulted from US torture policy. He found that about 100 prisoners died during interrogations, and some were clearly tortured to death.

The Bush Administration Homicides

A simple fact is being overlooked in the Bush-era torture scandal: the number of cases in which detainees have been tortured to death. Abuse did not only involve the high-profile cases of smashing detainees into plywood barriers (“walling”), confinement in coffin-like boxes with insects, sleep deprivation, cold, and waterboarding. To date approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death. The bottom line is that many detainee homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan were the direct result of approval and orders from the highest levels of government, and that high officials in the government are accomplices.

As of today, those homicides by torture have yet to be fully investigated. Those in the higher level of commands have avoided accountability. Here’s one report from Afghanistan:

In September 2004, the Crimes of War Project, working with investigative journalist Craig Pyes, uncovered a torture murder in Gardez, Afghanistan, in March 2003. Jamal Naseer, a soldier in the Afghan Army, died after he and seven other soldiers were mistakenly arrested. Those arrested with Naseer later said that during interrogations U.S. personnel punched and kicked them, hung them upside down, and hit them with sticks or cables. Some said they were doused with cold water and forced to lie in the snow. Nasser collapsed about two weeks after the arrest, complaining of stomach pain, probably an internal hemorrhage.

And here is one from Iraq:

To take one example, in December 2003, a 44-year-old Iraqi man named Abu Malik Kenami died in a U.S. detention facility in Mosul, Iraq. As reported by Human Rights First, U.S. military personnel who examined Kenami when he first arrived at the facility determined that he had no preexisting medical conditions. Once in custody, as a disciplinary measure for talking, Kenami was forced to perform extreme amounts of exercise—a technique used across Afghanistan and Iraq. Then his hands were bound behind his back with plastic handcuffs, he was hooded, and forced to lie in an overcrowded cell. Kenami was found dead the morning after his arrest, still bound and hooded. No autopsy was conducted; no official cause of death was determined.

With waterboarding, the CIA recognized that they might kill someone, so they had standby medical personnel and equipment:

An unresponsive subject should be righted immediately, and the integrator should deliver a sub-xyphoid thrust to expel the water. If this fails to restore normal breathing, aggressive medical intervention is required....” The memo also notes that CIA doctors present during waterboarding sessions stood by with necessary equipment to perform a tracheotomy if necessary: “[W]e are informed that the necessary emergency medical equipment is always present—although not visible to the detainee—during any application of the waterboard.”

I wonder how many would have died but were revived at the last minute. What a sickening thought – our government officials are running around torturing and murdering people who did not do a thing to hurt us in the first place. We are barbarians to allow this to go unpunished.

A Daily Kos writer has posted a review of five of the prisoners murdered by the CIA in the last eight years. There are more, but the information is ‘classified’.

Number of detainees murdered by CIA is classified information

Many of these names are probably familiar to you. The un-named detainee froze to death after being chained to a concrete floor without blankets and was left there the whole night. Manadel al-Jamadi was effectively crucified by his CIA interrogator, who is fully known and remains free to this day. Abdul Wali was beaten to death by CIA contractor David Passaro, who would later go on to be the only CIA employee convicted of abusing detainees. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was beaten by a CIA-sponsored unit of Iraqis and then suffocated by Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, who subsequently received no jail time for his actions. Lt. Col. Abdul Jameel was beaten and put into a savage stress position that blocked his oxygen intake and triggered asphyxiation. CIA involvement was discovered in all five of these cases, yet only one CIA interrogator, a contractor, was ever charged in connection to their deaths.

Jonathan Hafetz, a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, said, "Torture and abuse at Bagram is further evidence that prisoner abuse in US custody was systemic, not aberrational, and originated at the highest levels of government."

It wasn’t just the CIA and US military involved in homicide by torture - the Brits got involved too.

Were Iraqis tortured and killed by our soldiers?

Allegations that British soldiers murdered and mutilated 20 Iraqis are to be fully investigated after it emerged that ministers had attempted to warn Tony Blair about damaging evidence of the ill-treatment of battlefield prisoners five years ago. The startling revelation in the High Court yesterday led to the Government withdrawing its objection to a judicial inquiry into the alleged massacre after the battle of "Danny Boy" involving British forces near Basra in May 2004.

They have reopened the inquiry, and I have not heard any results. One piece of evidence that came to light was a video of a British soldier abusing Baha Mousa, who died while in custody. You can watch the video here:

A video of a British soldier screaming at Iraqi detainees is shown as evidence in an inquiry into the death of one of the prisoners.

And, the Iraqis did it too – well, at least we have evidence that they tortured, although I don’t know of documentation that Iraqi officials tortured people to death.

Iraqi torture practices could be more widespread

The discovery of malnourished detainees, many bearing signs of torture, in an underground bunker at the Iraqi Interior Ministry came after a US Army 3rd Infantry Division soldier investigated an Iraqi family's complaints that one of its sons was being secretly held. When US troops raided the facility Sunday night, they expected to find at most 40 detainees, not 173 sickly men and boys, all Sunni Arabs. Iraqi officials have since confirmed that torture implements were also found there.

There was plenty of evidence that Iraqis were tortured to death, just no concrete proof of who was responsible (although I would guess that nearly all parties in Iraq were doing it at some point – police, army, Interior Ministry, militias, and common criminals). Plenty of dead bodies with signs of drill marks, beatings, and mutilations were found on the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Here’s one example from the same story as above, which indicates the Iraqi police were involved:

Ammar Hamid Khalaf Muhammed Hummos related how his two brothers Hamid and Rafa were abducted by men in police uniforms on a street in Zafranaiyah, on the outskirts of Baghdad, this May, and how he later received word that the brothers were being held in the Shiite city of Kut, and that for $8,000 they'd be released. The family didn't come up with the money, and near tears he showed photos of his brothers' badly mutilated bodies, which were recovered in a ditch near Kut. "Pulling their fingernails out wasn't even the worst part."

And here is another example:

But the most arresting interview was with a man who wanted only to identified as Abu Adhar. He was carried to the interview by four relatives. Injuries covered his face, back, and legs. He was abducted and thrown into the back of a car while investigating charges of abuse by the Interior Ministry for a Sunni mosque where he leads prayers. After driving through at least five Iraqi police checkpoints, they arrived at a house. He said he was tortured for two days with electric shocks and whips. "Then their commander said they were done, and to take me out and kill me." Driving to a field where he expected to be shot, he managed to free his hands and escape when the car slowed. A farmer took him in and contacted his family.

And here is another story, about Iraqi militias engaging in torture that surely led to homicide.

One of them, Ahmed Isa Fathil, 19, a former member of the new Iraqi Army, said he had been held and tortured there for 22 days. All the while, he said, his face was almost entirely taped over and his hands were cuffed. In an interview with an embedded reporter just hours after he was freed, he said he had never seen the faces of his captors, who occasionally whispered at him, "We will kill you." He said they did not question him, and he did not know what they wanted. Nor did he ever expect to be released. "They kill somebody every day," said Mr. Fathil, whose hands were so swollen he could not open a can of Coke offered to him by a marine. "They've killed a lot of people."

In the case of the militias (or insurgents, or terrorists, or whatever they called themselves) they openly declared that they would kill the men they tortured. So did the Iraqi police, and there have been reports that the Iraqi Special Forces and Iraqi Interior Ministry and Iraqi military did this also. And I am sure there were times when US forces or British forces also threatened to kill their prisoners.

Torturing people to death was not official policy, just as rape was not official policy. But torture, when allowed, will sometimes go on to the point of death for the victim. And the sanctioning of the threat of rape will one day lead to actual rape.

But, this is what wars and occupations lead to – always.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: homicide by torture.

Resolution – The Torture Song

No comments: