by Tom Burghardt
October 24, 2010
On October 22nd, the whistleblowing
site WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified Iraq war
documents, the largest leak of secret information in U.S. history.
Explosive revelations contained in
the Iraq War Logs provided
further evidence of the Pentagon's role in the systematic torture of
Iraqi citizens by the U.S.-installed post-Saddam regime.
Indeed, multiple files document how U.S. officials failed to
investigate thousands of cases of abuse, torture, rape and murder.
Even innocent victims who were targets of kidnapping gangs, tortured
for ransom by Iraqi police and soldiers operating out of the
Interior Ministry, were "investigated" in a perfunctory manner that
was little more than a cover-up.
Never mind that the Pentagon was fully cognizant of the nightmare
playing out in Iraqi jails and prisons.
Never mind the beatings with
rifle butts and steel cables, the electrocutions, the flesh sliced
with razors, the limbs hacked-off with chainsaws, the acid and
chemical burns on battered corpses found along the roads, the eyes
gouged out or the bones lacerated by the killers' tool of choice:
the power drill.
Never mind that the death squads stood-up by American forces when
the imperial adventure went wildly off the rails, were modeled on
counterinsurgency methods pioneered in Vietnam (Operation Phoenix)
and in South- and Central American during the 1970s and 1980s
(Operation Condor) and that a "Salvador Option" was in play.
Never mind that the former commander of the U.S. Military Advisory
Group in El Salvador, Col. James Steele, was the U.S. Embassy's
point-man for setting up the Wolf Brigade or the Iraqi Interior
Ministry's Special Police Commandos, notorious death squads that
spread havoc and fear across Iraq's cities, towns and villages.
The killings and atrocities carried out by American and British
clients were not simply random acts of mayhem initiated by sectarian
On the contrary, though sectarianism and inter-ethnic hatred
played a role in the slaughter, from a strategic and tactical point
of view these were carefully calibrated acts designed to instill
terror in a population utterly devastated by the U.S. invasion.
researcher Max Fuller
reported five years ago:
In Iraq the war comes in two phases.
The first phase is complete:
the destruction of the existing state, which did not comply with the
interests of British and American capital.
The second phase consists
of building a new state tied to those interests and smashing every
dissenting sector of society.
Openly, this involves applying the
same sort of economic shock therapy that has done so much damage in
swathes of the Third World and Eastern Europe.
Covertly, it means
intimidating, kidnapping and murdering opposition voices.
Iraq, 'The Salvador Option' Becomes Reality," Global Research, June
Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell denounced the leaks Friday
evening, claiming the document dump was a,
"gift to terrorist
organizations" that "put at risk the lives of our troops."
Playing down the significance the files lend to our understanding of
the U.S. occupation, Morrell characterized them as "mundane."
degree that they chronicle the nonchalance, indeed casual
indifference towards Iraqi life displayed by U.S. forces, Morrell is
correct: they are numbingly mundane and therein lies their horror.
The logs paint a grim picture of life after the "liberation" of the
oil-rich nation. As with the organization's publication of some
75,000 files from their
Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010, Friday's
release provides stark evidence of U.S. complicity - and worse - in
the systematic abuse of prisoners.
According to the War Logs, in 2006 an unnamed U.S. Special
Operations Task Force was accused of blinding a prisoner in their
read the following:
ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE BY TF ___ IN ___ 2006-02-02 17:50:00
AT 2350C, IN ___, WHILE CONDUCTING OUT-PROCESSING, DETAINEE # ___
REPORTED THAT HE WAS ABUSED DURING HIS CAPTURE. DETAINEE IS MISSING
HIS RIGHT EYE, AND HAS SCAR___ ON HIS RIGHT FOREARM. DETAINEE STATES
THAT HIS INJURIES ARE A RESULT OF THE ABUSE THAT HE RECEIVED UPON
CAPTURE. DIMS INDICATE THAT THE DETAINEE WAS CAPTURED ON ___ IN ___,
AND THE CAPTURING UNIT WAS TASK FORCE ___. THE DETAINEES CAPTURE TAG
NUMBER IS ___. IN PROCESSING PERSONNEL STATE THAT THE DETAINEE___
CAPTURE PHOTO DEPICTS A BANDAGE OVER HIS RIGHT EYE, AND INJURY TO
HIS RIGHT FOREARM. THE DETAINEE HAS COMPLETED THE DETAINEE ABUSE
COMPLAINT FORM, AND WE ARE SEEKING A SWORN STATEMENT FROM THE
DETAINEE. PER ORDER OF Task force ___, THE DETAINEE ___ TRANSFERRED
AS SCHEDULED, AND CONTINUE CID INVESTIGATION UPON ARRIVAL AT ___
File after gruesome file reveals that even when confronted by
serious evidence of abuse, the outcome was as sickening as it was
"No further investigation."
Called "Frago 242" reports for "fragmentary orders," the military
files summarized thousands of events. When alleged abuse was
committed by an Iraqi on another Iraqi,
"only an initial report will
be made ... No further investigation will be required unless
directed by HQ."
Those directives never arrived.
In fact, in a hypermilitarized society such as ours' where the
"chain of command" is valued above basic human decency, never mind
the rule of law, orders to be "discrete" always come from the top.
Investigative journalist Robert Fisk
recounted how during a November
2005 Pentagon press conference:
Peter Pace, the uninspiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
is briefing journalists on how soldiers should react to the cruel
treatment of prisoners, pointing out proudly that an American
soldier's duty is to intervene if he sees evidence of torture.
the camera moves to the far more sinister figure of Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who suddenly interrupts - almost in a
mutter, and to Pace's consternation - "I don't think you mean they
(American soldiers) have an obligation to physically stop it. It's
to report it."
("The Shaming of America," The Independent on Sunday,
October 24, 2010)
In essence, Frago 242 were the political means used by the U.S.
administration to absolve themselves of command responsibility for
the slaughter they had initiated with the March 2003 invasion.
reported these horrors. What more do you want?"
Eager to pass security management onto their Iraqi puppets and cut
their losses, the Pentagon and their political masters in Washington
bypassed their obligations as the occupying power to ensure that
human rights and the rule of law were respected by the clients whom
they had installed to rule over the oil-rich nation.
One file from
2006 tells us:
ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IA AT THE DIYALA JAIL IN BAQUBAH
AT 1330D, ___ REPORTS ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE IN THE DIYALA PROVINCE,
IN BA'___ AT THE DIYALA JAIL, vicinity. ___. 1X DETAINEE CLAIMS THAT
HE WAS SEIZED FROM HIS HOUSE BY IA IN THE KHALIS AREA OF THE DIYALA
PROVINCE. HE WAS THEN HELD UNDERGROUND IN BUNKERS FOR APPROXIMATELY
___ MONTHS AROUND ___ SUBJECTED TO TORTURE BY MEMBERS OF THE /___
IA. THIS ALLEGED TORTURE INCLUDED, AMONG OTHER THINGS, THE ___
STRESS POSITION, WHEREBY HIS HANDS WERE BOUND/___ AND HE WAS
SUSPENDED FROM THE CEILING; THE USE OF BLUNT OBJECTS (.___. PIPES)
TO BEAT HIM ON THE BACK AND LEGS; AND THE USE OF ELECTRIC DRILLS TO
BORE HOLES IN HIS LEGS. FOLLOW UP CARE HAS BEEN GIVEN TO THE
DETAINEE BY US ___. THE DETAINEE IS UNDER US CONTROL AT THIS TIME.
ALL PAPERWORK HAS BEEN SENT UP THROUGH THE NECESSARY ___ AND PMO
CHANNELS. CLOSED: 260341MAY2006. Significant activity MEETS MNC- ___
Two days later, additional torture victims were found in the Diyala
Jail, and U.S. military personnel
ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IP IVO BA': ___ DETAINEES INJ, ___ CF INJ/DAMAGE
AT 1700D, ___ REPORTS ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE IN THE DIYALA PROVINCE,
IN BA'___ AT THE DIYALA JAIL, vicinity. ___. 7X DETAINEES CLAIMS
THEY WERE SEIZED BY IA IN THE KHALIS AREA OF THE DIYALA PROVINCE.
THEY WERE DETAINED AROUND - ___ AND SUBJECTED TO TORTURE BY MEMBERS
OF THE IA AND IP. THIS ALLEGED TORTURE INCLUDED, AMONG OTHER THINGS,
STRESS POSITIONS, BOUND/___ AND SUSPENDED FROM THE CEILING; THE USE
OF VARIOUS BLUNT OBJECTS (.___. PIPES AND ANTENNAS) TO BEAT THEM,
AND FORCED CONFESSIONS. ALL DETAINEES WERE DETAINED FOR ALLEGED
INVOLVEMENT IN AN ATTACK ON A IA Check Point IN KHALIS. FOLLOW UP
CARE HAS BEEN GIVEN TO THE DETAINEES BY US ___. THE DETAINEES ARE
UNDER US CONTROL AT THIS TIME. ALL PAPERWORK HAS BEEN SENT UP
THROUGH THE NECESSARY ___ AND PMO CHANNELS. Serious Incident Report
TO FOLLOW. CLOSED: 280442MAY2006. MEETS ___
WikiLeaks release prompted the UN's chief investigator on torture,
Manfred Nowak, to demand that the Obama administration,
"order a full
investigation of US forces' involvement in human rights abuses in
The Guardian reported.
Nowak said that if the files demonstrate clear violations of the UN
Convention Against Torture then,
"the Obama administration had an
obligation to investigate them."
A failure to investigate these serious charges,
"would be a failure
of the Obama government to recognize its obligations under
There's little chance of that happening under
our "forward looking" president.
On the contrary, as The Washington Post
reported Sunday, that former
CIA general counsel Jeffrey H. Smith, a current adviser to America's
top spook Leon Panetta, wants to hang the messenger.
"'without question' he thought that [WikiLeaks founder
Julian] Assange could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for
possessing and sharing without authorization classified military
The Post informed us that Obama's Justice Department,
the Defense Department in its investigation into the leaks to WikiLeaks. Though Smith said he did not know whether efforts were
underway to gain custody [of Assange], he said, 'My supposition is
that the Justice Department and Department of Defense are working
very hard to see if they can get jurisdiction over him'."
discussed in late 2009, perhaps the Pentagon is working
feverishly to do just that, deploying a Joint Special Operations
Command (JSOC) "Manhunting team" to run Assange and his organization
Manhunting - Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare,
retired Lt. Col. George A. Crawford wrote in a 2009 monograph
published by Joint Special Operations University, that,
"Manhunting - the
deliberate concentration of national power to find, influence,
capture, or when necessary kill an individual to disrupt a human
network - has emerged as a key component of operations to counter
irregular warfare adversaries in lieu of traditional state-on-state
And with an administration that asserts the right to kill anyone on
the planet, including American citizens deemed "terrorists," it
isn't a stretch to imagine the Pentagon resorting to a little "wet
work" to silence
Assange, thereby disrupting "a human network"
viewed as deleterious impediment to Washington's imperial project.
After all, in Crawford's view,
"Why drop a bomb when effects
operations or a knife might do?"
Be that as it may, there was already sufficient evidence before
Friday's release that American military personnel and outsourced
"private security contractors" (armed mercenaries) had committed war
crimes that warranted criminal investigations.
Even after 2004 revelations by investigative journalist
Seymour Hersh in
The New Yorker sparked the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the
files show that the systematic abuse and execution of prisoners,
along with other serious war crimes, were standard operating
procedure by the United States and their Iraqi "coalition" partners.
When Hersh's investigation first landed on the doorstep of the
White House, we were told that detainee abuse was the work of a "few
bad apples" on the "night shift" at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
While enlisted personnel were charged, tried, convicted and
imprisoned for their crimes, senior Pentagon officials including
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Paul Wolfowitz and their top aides were exonerated by the White
House and their accomplices in
the corporate media.
"The truth is" Robert Fisk writes, "U.S. generals... are furious
not because secrecy has been breached, or because blood may be
spilt, but because they have been caught out telling the lies we
always knew they told."