Revealed: Pentagon’s link to Iraqi torture centres

Exclusive: General David Petraeus and ‘dirty wars’ veteran behind commando units implicated in detainee abuse

The Guardian, Wednesday 6 March 2013

The Guardian investigation was spurred by the 2010 Wikileaks release.  Their initial video report, “The Torture Trail: What did General Petraeus’s special advisor, James Steele, know?”, showed how the newly released US military files reveal an instruction to ignore detainee abuse by Iraqi authorities; what that meant on the ground; and just how far up the chain of command the order went.  That 7-minute  video, from 2010, is shown here:

CLICK ON THIS LINK TO VIEW THE COMPLETE AND FINAL 2013 VIDEO REPORT (51 minutes): James Steele: America’s mystery man in Iraq

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows. Continue reading

We Must Not Fail Bradley Manning

US-War-Crimesby KEVIN ZEESE, Counterpunch, March 4, 2013

As I sat in court last Thursday at Fort Meade, watching Bradley Manning take responsibility as the Wikileaks whistleblower, two things struck me: (1) his thorough intelligence fueled by intellectual curiosity and (2) his empathy for other people when so many in war had lost their humanity.

This was the second time I had heard Manning testify. The first was his testimony about the abusive pre-trial incarceration he suffered for one year while being held in a cage in Kuwait and in solitary confinement in the Quantico Brig.  I’ve now seen him testify for a total of 15 hours.

His testimony leads me to wonder: what would have happened to Bradley Manning if we had a decent educational system that included affordable, preferably free, college education so that young people weren’t driven to the military for economic reasons? What could Bradley Manning have given the country if he had been able to pursue his interests and natural talents? Would Manning have joined the military if the country was honest about how the US Empire operates around the world?

But, that was not to be.  The country failed Bradley Manning.

I hope we do not fail him again.

Manning made it clear last Thursday that he leaked the documents to Wikileaks because he saw serious problems in US foreign policy. Problems which are as serious as they can be: war crimes, criminal behavior at the highest levels up to Secretary of State Clinton, unethical behavior and bullying of other nations. Continue reading

Afghanistan: False promise of withdrawal, is now long term US troop plan

AFP Photo / Shah Marai
[Obama's election promises notwithstanding, the Afghan troops trained by US and NATO forces cannot be trusted by imperialism to be loyal and effective gendarmes of the post-occupation neo-colonial system.  So, it is now announced, the US will carry on its training and counterinsurgency operations, indefinitely.  -- Frontlines ed.]
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10k US troops to stay in Afghanistan past 2014 deadline

26 November, 2012

Ten thousand US troops will stay in Afghanistan past 2014, senior officials say, despite earlier demands from President Barack Obama to end the war during the second year of his upcoming term.

Most of the 66,000 or so troops currently positioned in Afghanistan will be removed by Pres. Obama’s predetermined deadline, the sources say, but a substantial amount of Americans will be asked to remain indefinitely to conduct training and counterterrorism operations after allied North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops are expunged in late 2014.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Gen. John Allen, the top US commander overseeing the war in Afghanistan, proposed that anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000 troops remain overseas following the end of the current NATO operation occurring there. A number closer to 10,000 was established after top Obama administration officials reached a compromise with the Pentagon, the paper reports. Continue reading

Horror stories from young Afghans at US hearing

Associated Press : Washington, Mon Nov 12 2012

ThUS soldier hearinge soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians watched as child after child described the bloodbath that left their parents and other loved ones dead. Whatever reaction Staff Sgt. Robert Bales might have had, he kept hidden behind a calm face.

Three sessions of nighttime testimony in Bales’ preliminary hearing, scheduled to accommodate witnesses participating by video link from Afghanistan, wrapped up late Sunday. After the hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the investigating officer will decide whether to court-martial Bales, who could be sentenced to death if convicted.

The witnesses were as young as little Robina, just 7, who wore a deep-red head covering and a nervous smile. She described how she hid behind her father when a gunman came to their village that night, how the stranger fired, and how her father died, cursing in pain and anger.

“I was standing behind my father,” she testified Saturday night. “He shot my father.”

One of the bullets struck her in the leg, but she didn’t realize it right away.

Prosecutors say Bales slipped away from his base to attack two villages in Kandahar province, killing 16 civilians, including nine children. The slayings drew such angry protests that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan, and it was three weeks before American investigators could reach the crime scenes. Continue reading

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Drone Strikes

by Mehdi Hasan, The Huffington Post,  October 30, 2012
Yesterday, I was a panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Morning Live show on which, for once, I was able to debate the morality of the Obama administration’s CIA drone programme in Pakistan. There has been little discussion of the specific details of the programme in the mainstream media, on either side of the pond, and the recent US presidential debate on foreign policy saw moderator Bob Schieffer ask Mitt Romney (and not Barack Obama) a single, loaded and unfocused question on the issue.
Now, in the wake of a Pakistani man taking the British government to court over its alleged involvement in the killing of his father in a US drone strike in Waziristan, British media organisations are starting to pay attention.
But here are five things they – politicians, journalists, security ‘experts’, etc – don’t tell you about drone strikes – four out of five of which I managed to squeeze into yesterday’s discussion on the BBC (and which resulted in fellow panellist and former home secretary David Blunkett, to his credit, suggesting he may have to rethink his support for drones):
1) Despite their supposed ‘accuracy’ and ‘precision’, a study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says CIA drones have been responsible for between 474 and 881 civilian deaths in Pakistan since mid-2004 – including 176 Pakistani children, who were just as innocent as Malala Yousafzai. Continue reading

Between the US bombs and Taliban fighters: The Children Under Attack in Pakistan and Afghanistan

October 18, 2012

Infanticide as Policy?

by DAVE LINDORFF, Counterpunch

Six children were attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan this past week. Three of them, teenaged girls on a school bus in Peshawar, in the tribal region of western Pakistan, were shot and gravely wounded by two Taliban gunmen who were after Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who has been bravely demanding the right of girls to an education. After taking a bullet to the head, and facing further death threats, she has been moved to a specialty hospital in Britain. Her two wounded classmates are being treated in Pakistan.

The other three children were not so lucky. They were killed Sunday in an aerial attack by a US aircraft in the the Nawa district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, not so far from Pakistan. The attack, described by the military as a “precision strike,” was reportedly aimed at several Taliban fighters who were allegedly planting an IED in the road, but the strike also killed three children, Borjan, 12; Sardar Wali, 10; and Khan Bibi, 8, all from one family, who were right nearby collecting dung for fuel.

Initially, as is its standard MO, the US denied that any children had been killed and insisted that the aircraft had targeted three “Taliban” fighters, and had successfully killed them. Only later, as evidence grew indesputable that the three children had also been killed, the US switched to its standard fallback position for atrocities in the Afghanistan War and its other wars: it announced that it was “investigating” the incident and said that it “regretted” any civilian deaths.

There are several questions that arise immediately from this second story. First of  all, if the three kids were close enough to be killed by this “precision” attack, they were surely also close enough to have been visible to whatever surveillance craft was monitoring the activities of the Taliban fighters, and if they were seen, there should have been no air strike called in. Second, the US, allegedly trying to reduce civilian casualties, is supposedly now operating its air attacks under rules of engagement that only allow strikes where there is “imminent danger” to US or allied forces. How is planting an IED an “imminent” danger? If the location is known, troops in the area can be alerted, and the IED removed or detonated. An identified IED is not an imminent threat. Continue reading

Afghan Army: “Please Tolerate the US Soldier’s ‘Cultural Insensitivities’ — ‘No Offense’ intended”

October 04, 2012
Turning the Tables in Afghanistan — The Humiliation of Can-Do American Boys
by WILLIAM BLUM

In Afghanistan, the US military has tried training sessions, embedded cultural advisers, recommended reading lists, and even a video game designed to school American troops in local custom. But 11 years into the war, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural awareness, officials say, contributing to a string of attacks by Afghan police and soldiers against their military partners. Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts. While some insider attacks have been attributed to Taliban infiltrators, military officials say the majority stem from personal disputes and misunderstandings.

So the Afghan army is trying something new, most likely with American input: a guide to the strange ways of the American soldier. The goal is to convince Afghan troops that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it’s likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge. The pamphlet they’ve produced includes the following advice:

“Please do not get offended if you see a NATO member blowing his/her nose in front of you.”

“When Coalition members get excited, they may show their excitement by patting one another on the back or the behind. They may even do this to you if they are proud of the job you’ve done. Once again, they don’t mean to offend you.”

“When someone feels comfortable in your presence, they may even put their feet on their own desk while speaking with you. They are by no means trying to offend you. They simply don’t know or have forgotten the Afghan custom.” (Pointing the soles of one’s shoes at someone is considered a grievous insult in Afghanistan.)

The guide also warns Afghan soldiers that Western troops might wink at them or inquire about their female relatives or expose their private parts while showering — all inappropriate actions by Afghan standards.

Early in 2012, a video showed US soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters

Demonstrators show copies of the Koran allegedly set alight by US soldiers serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan, during a protest at the gate of Bagram airbase on Feb. 21, 2012. (SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Hmmm. I wonder if the manual advises telling Afghan soldiers that urinating on dead Afghan bodies, cutting off fingers, and burning the Koran are all nothing more than good ol’ Yankee customs, meaning no offense of course.

And does it point out that no Afghan should be insulted by being tortured in an American military prison since the same is done at home to American prisoners.

Most importantly, the Afghan people must be made to understand that bombing them, invading them, and occupying them for 11 years are all for their own good. It’s called “freedom and democracy”.

I almost feel sorry for the American military in Afghanistan. They’re “can-do” Americans, accustomed to getting their way, habituated to thinking of themselves as the best, expecting the world to share that sentiment, and they’re frustrated as hell, unable to figure out “why they hate us”, why we can’t win them over, why we can’t at least wipe them out. Don’t they want freedom and democracy? … They’re can-do Americans, using good ol’ American know-how and Madison Avenue savvy, sales campaigns, public relations, advertising, selling the US brand, just like they do it back home; employing media experts, psychologists, even anthropologists … and nothing helps. And how can it if the product you’re selling is toxic, inherently, from birth, if you’re ruining your customers’ lives, with no regard for any kind of law or morality, health or environment. They’re can-do Americans, used to playing by the rules — theirs; and they’re frustrated as hell. Continue reading