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

She Almost Stopped the War

Katharine Gun: Ten years on,  what happened to the woman who revealed dirty tricks on the UN Iraq war vote?

In the run-up to the critical vote on war in Iraq, Katharine Gun exposed a US plot to spy on the UN. As a film of her story is planned, she tells of her anger and frustration – but not her regrets

The Observer, Saturday 2 March 2013

Katharine Gun

[Katharine Gun back in Cheltenham last week: ‘This is the ugly truth of what goes on.’ Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer]

Ten years ago, a young Mandarin specialist at GCHQ, the government’s surveillance centre in Cheltenham, did something extraordinary. Katharine Gun, a shy and studious 28-year-old who spent her days listening in to obscure Chinese intercepts, decided to tell the world about a secret plan by the US government to spy on the United Nations.

She had received an email in her inbox asking her and her colleagues to help in a vast intelligence “surge” designed to secure a UN resolution to send troops into Iraq. She was horrified and leaked the email to the Observer. As a result of the story the paper published 10 years ago this weekend, she was arrested, lost her job and faced trial under the Official Secrets Act.

The memo from Frank Koza, chief of staff at the “regional targets” section of the National Security Agency, GCHQ’s sister organisation in the US, remains shocking in its implications for British sovereignty. Koza was in effect issuing a direct order to the employees of a UK security agency to gather “the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises”. This included a particular focus on the “swing nations” on the security council, Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea, “as well as extra focus on Pakistan UN matters”. 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

Accused of disclosing secret war crimes, Bradley Manning challenges the abusive accusers

Pfc. Bradley Manning faces a potential life sentence if convicted of leaking documents.

Pfc. Bradley Manning faces a potential life sentence if convicted of leaking documents.

In WikiLeaks Case, Defense Puts the Jailers on Trial

By and , New York Times, December 7, 2012

FORT MEADE, Md. — In a half-empty courtroom here, with a crew of fervent supporters in attendance, Pfc. Bradley Manning and his lawyer have spent the last two weeks turning the tables on the government.

Private Manning faces a potential life sentence if convicted on charges that he gave WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy organization, hundreds of thousands of confidential military and diplomatic documents. But for now, he has been effectively putting on trial his former jailers at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps base. His lawyer, David E. Coombs, has grilled one Quantico official after another, demanding to know why his client was kept in isolation and stripped of his clothing at night as part of suicide-prevention measures.

Mr. Coombs, a polite but relentless interrogator who stands a foot taller than his client, has laid bare deep disagreements inside the military: psychiatrists thought the special measures unnecessary, while jail commanders ignored their advice and kept the suicide restrictions in place. In a long day of testimony last week, Private Manning of the Army, vilified as a dangerous traitor by some members of Congress but lauded as a war-crimes whistle-blower on the political left, heartened his sympathizers with an eloquent and even humorous performance on the stand.

“He was engaged, chipper, optimistic,” said Bill Wagner, 74, a retired NASA solar physicist who is a courtroom regular, dressed in the black “Truth” T-shirt favored by Private Manning’s supporters.

Private Manning, who turns 25 on Dec. 17 and looks much younger, was quietly attentive during Friday’s court session, in a dress uniform, crew-cut blond hair and wire-rimmed glasses. If his face were not already familiar from television news, he might have been mistaken for a first-year law student assisting the defense team.

It seemed incongruous that he has essentially acknowledged responsibility for the largest leak of classified material in history. The material included a quarter-million State Department cables whose release may have chilled diplomats’ ability to do their work discreetly but also helped fuel the Arab Spring; video of American helicopter crews shooting people on the ground in Baghdad who they thought were enemy fighters but were actually Reuters journalists; field reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and confidential assessments of the detainees locked up at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Continue reading

The Dark And Secret Dungeons Of Iraq: Horror Stories Of Female Prisoners

By Wijhat Nadhar, 12 December, 2012, Countercurrents.org

When women in Iraq are arrested, they routinely go through three gruesome phases, starting with humiliation, followed by torture, and often ending with rape. I have received disturbing information from two different, well informed sources: one from qualified social workers in Al-Kadimiyah Women Prison, the other from three national guards officers who worked in the prison.

The common procedure is as follows:

During the Arrest

The torture journey starts when security forces raid and search the houses, through random raids or ordered raids. The Fourth Commander of the Second Brigade – Team 6, Major Jumaa Al-Musawi, has confirmed this information. This man has a criminal record, and he was assigned to this position by the American Forces during their first training courses in intelligence gathering. He used to live in Al-Thawra (now called Sadr City) / Sector 87. In his own words:

“When we receive the raid and search orders from the Brigade Intelligence, we usually start with a little party and drink alcohol, or take some drugs. We choose the most cruel soldiers to carry out such operations. The first thing we do is to lock the men and youngsters in a room, and the women and children in another room. We start to steal what can be taken fast, like jewelry, and we mess up the house, like throwing the women’s underwear here and there; some soldiers even steal some of this underwear. After that, we start to do a body search on the women, and having fun touching their private parts or breasts. We threaten them to arrest the men in the house when they refuse to be touched. If those women are pretty, we usually rape them immediately, and leave the house when we find no weapons or incriminating material. In case we find some weapons, every man and youngster in the house will be arrested, and if there are no men at home, we arrest all the women instead. This is totally according to the orders we receive.” Continue reading

Frantz Fanon and the Arab Uprisings: An Interview with Nigel Gibson

from Thinking Africa: Fanon 50 years later
Nigel Gibson was interviewed by Yasser Munif in Jadaliyya:  “The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon’s magnum opus, was published in 1961, a few days after his death. The book was not only influential for several generations of grassroots movements and activists in Africa, the United States, and Latin America; it was also discussed and debated extensively in intellectual circles across the globe. The reception of the book was more mitigated in the Arab world. This might be due to Fanon’s sweeping criticism of national bourgeoisie, which seized power after decolonization and became an intermediary class between Western powers and local populations. The Martiniquan intellectual was skeptical of revolutions from above, as was the case with several anti-colonialist movements in the Arab World. Interestingly, while the Arabic translation of the The Wretched of the Earth came out shortly after its publication in French, it omitted many passages because they were critical of the national bourgeoisie. Fifty years later, Fanon is almost absent in public discourses in the Middle East and is still marginal in the Maghreb. The uprisings should have been an excellent opportunity for Arab intellectuals and activists to engage with Fanon’s work on the revolution and the subaltern in the new conjuncture. However, despite the significance of his political philosophy for the current revolts, his books are either out of print or conspicuously absent from many bookstores in the Arab world.
“In this interview with Nigel Gibson, one of the most prominent experts on Fanon’s work, he explains the significance of the Fanonian theoretical framework and its relevance for the Arab uprisings. Nigel Gibson has written a number of articles and books on the Martiniquan intellectual and deployed a Fanonian perspective to examine many contemporary revolts. His numerous books include Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003) and Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo (2011). He teaches postcolonial theory at Emerson College. The interview was conducted in Boston in July 2012.”
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Though the “Arab Spring” opened things up in many countries, it was not all the same, nor is the struggle of the people complete on any front, so attempts to classify or categorize will inherently fail. Nonetheless, this map represents one view of how things have gone (so far).

Yasser Munif (YM): Ongoing protests have swept the Arab world since the toppling of the Tunisian dictator. They changed the political and cultural landscape of the region. The mot d’ordre of the protesters is clear: “The people want the fall of the regime.” Western powers tried to co-opt the protests because real democracy in the Arab World can threaten their domination of the region. They want to maintain their hegemony in the oil rich gulf. The region is also important geopolitically because of the United States’ close ties to Israel and its wars in the Middle East. The interest of the West in the region is not new. In Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said argues that while formal colonization ended in the mid-twentieth century, Arab countries became the political satellites of the West since then. He writes, “for two generations the United States has sided in the Middle East mostly with tyranny and injustice… one administration after another has propped up compliant and unpopular clients, and turned away from the efforts of small peoples to liberate themselves from military occupation. In a way, Said is suggesting that real independence was never achieved; the present politico-economic condition of Arab countries is a continuation of the colonial period by new means. In this context, the work of Frantz Fanon is very relevant to understanding the current Arab uprisings. Yet, as you explain in a recent essay, one should refrain from the temptation of extrapolating old concepts into new situations. Referring to Fanon’s work ,you write, “The task for radicals is to avoid applying pre-formed cookie-cutter theory to new situations and jamming a new event or movement into old categories, but, instead, to begin to open up space for dialogue and reflection on action.” Do you think that Frantz Fanon’s analysis about colonialism, imperialism, and independence movements can have any relevance today for Arab protesters who are challenging despotic regimes?

Nigel Gibson (NG): I do think that Fanon has relevance, and so the question is how do you approach Fanon? Are there categories in Fanon’s thought that can simply be applied to new situations, and if so what new thinking would emerge? Applying Fanon’s categories to new situations is valuable to a degree, but the question I am asking is what does Fanon offer us methodologically? In other words, how does he actually get us to rethink our concepts? I think Fanon is basically an open thinker and a radically humanist thinker. If you look at the first pages of Black Skin White Masks, where he is critical of scientific methods, to the final pages of the Wretched of the Earth, where he talks about working out new concepts, the question is how and on what basis do you work on new concepts with the goal of human freedom? For Fanon, becoming actional is connected to his idea of a new humanism, which is explicitly critical of European humanism so intimately connected with colonialism. So, it is not simply about finding new concepts from anywhere, but being both critical and self-critical and also being very open to what is happening on the ground. So, in other words, a critic could have said, last January in 2011 in Tahrir Square, that if you read Fanon, you know that the liberatory moment is going to be closed down by the military or the state, and therefore end up with a kind of ontological pessimism. We are defeated before we begin. The critic might add, Fanon tells us that all these revolutions in the end will fail, and look: they have. But, for me, that is not how one engages Fanon. If Fanon is alive he is in the revolts because the revolts themselves open up something very new. One has to be aware, or listen, or open one’s mind to what are the new beginnings.
Now, you could look at the situation and say, Fanon tells us to be very wary of the nationalist elite and all the other social forces we could talk about: religious elite, nationalist elite, military elite, regional elites, and the comprador nature of some of these elites and all the repressive ideologies that justify them. So, in other words, the question then becomes how do you employ Fanon productively? You do not want to close down possibilities, but at the same time, you want to be wary of Fanon’s warnings. So, in a certain sense, it is what I would consider a dialectical approach. It is not simply good enough—and one could do it with any thinker, one could do it with Marx—to have a series of categories to say, well, this revolt will fail because it does not correspond with the categories or fulfill certain expectations in a Marx or in a Fanon, and therefore it is doomed to do this and that. Even if in the end it does this and that, we have to be open about what is new in the Arab revolts. What do they tell us? How do they come about? Why have they come about now? In what way can one see them as new beginnings, a turning of a page, and the creation of a new historical moment, rather than a repetition of a neocolonial situation that you mention in Said’s quote in the beginning? If Fanon’s thought is alive, it cannot be simply applied.
YM: As I mentioned above, Said thinks that the process of decolonization was aborted by local social forces or international policies, and that what we are experiencing in the Middle East today is a continuation of old fashioned colonialism, as in the case of Iraq, or a form of neocolonialism /imperialism, as is the case of most Arab countries. In that sense, Fanon is extremely relevant and we have to reread him. And yet, Fanon has been extremely absent in the Arab public spheres, public discussions, and the media in general. Some intellectuals have either consciously avoided him or are ignorant about his work and its implications on contemporary Arab societies. Others, for ideological reasons, denied these connections between “metropole” and “colony,” to use Fanon’s categories and the relationship between the two. Many Arabs and Western liberals have argued that the revolts are about democracy and anti-authoritarianism and we should not conflate these new categories with the older ones such as imperialism or colonialism. Hazem Saghieh, one of the influential Lebanese journalists who writes for the London-based and Gulf-funded al-Hayat newspaper, wrote in one of his articles that protesters in Tahrir Square were not holding signs about imperialism or Zionism, and these revolts are therefore about internal /local issues and regional concerns. So, how can one make an argument for the relevance of Fanon when he is so absent in public discourses?
NG: It is almost like different levels of abstractions. There is not a one-to-one correspondence; fifty years is the long time to think about a thinker’s relevance or to think of the relevance of their work to a contemporary period. However, in the same way, you could say that there were not very many banners about democracy in the way that liberal democracy or the western kind of democracy understands it and that the pundits have said the revolts were about. Therefore, the signs and slogans in Tahrir may have not been about imperialism, and they may have not reflected the kind of things that the liberal critics wanted to talk about either. But the issue then becomes not to judge things by an a priori anti-imperial discourse. Rather, the first thing is to find out what is being talked about. What are people saying? It was certainly about getting rid of Mubarak. But it was more than that, even if it was not explicit; the point is to trace through the contradictions and developments. Someone who has not read Fanon and who lived through that period, and now reads Fanon, will find out how quickly he or she identifies with his analysis of how the new rulers behave like the old rulers; it is a revolution, yes, but in the old sense of revolving and repeating what was happening before. In one sense, it is how we understand neo-colonialism, but Fanon is not only talking about the threat from imperialism, which is always there, but how the threats are manifested internally. He speaks about a great threat to the decolonial movement being the lack of liberatory ideologies. What does he mean by ideology? Certainly, there are many ideologies around. There are Islamic ideologies; there are nationalist ideologies, neoliberal ideologies, and so forth. He is talking about something else. He has a vision for something else. The subject of the Wretched of the Earth is the wretched of the earth, that majority of the people of the world, who are not only poor, but are actively denied agency and are constantly reminded that politics is above them. How do the wretched of the earth become actional, become political, and become social individuals? Fanon calls his ideology a new humanism, not only in contrast to the elite humanism of the West, but also on the axiom that the wretched of the earth, understood socially, think and thus must be a basis of a new politics. This, of course, is not achieved immediately, but it must become an explicit element of the struggle for liberation. Then there is the question of the role of the intellectual committed to social change. What can the intellectuals do in these periods? So, again we are back to Fanon’s relevance and the difficulty of talking about it in an applied way. First, it is interesting to look at the history of why Fanon is not considered relevant and the fact that postcolonial states have suppressed his thought in one way or another.   Second, the only way we can prove the relevance of Fanon in a certain way outside of some academic circles is to ask, do people involved in social struggles engage with Fanonian concepts and find something relevant for them, even if they have never heard of Fanon because Fanon is implicitly in the struggles? In other words, the idea of a new generation; he has a phrase at the beginning of “On National Consciousness, where he talks about how “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”[1] So, a new generation makes something of him and brings that into the discussion. To me, that would be the only proof of relevance of Fanon. I can make an argument for it, but in the end that would be the test. Now the question is: how would that happen? How do you get Fanon into the public discourse, especially when a lot of the public discourse is limited, and Fanon is considered irrelevant? You face liberal pundits like Hazem Saghieh, who might say that Fanon represents a fifty-year-old politics of violence and imperialism, or other politicians, who might emphasize that Fanon is not a Muslim and is therefore irrelevant to a Muslim society. These are some of the problems with discussing Fanon. Continue reading

Memorial Day: While the system glorifies imperialist war, the people remember the victims of their war crimes — Iraq


COLLATERAL MURDER — 14:58
Update: On July 6, 2010, Private Bradley Manning, a 22 year old intelligence analyst with the United
States Army in Baghdad, was charged with disclosing this video (after allegedly speaking to an
unfaithful journalist). The whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has called Mr.
Manning a ‘hero’. He is currently imprisoned, facing military court trial. The Apache crew and those behind the cover
up depicted in the video have yet to be charged. To assist Private Manning, please see
bradleymanning.org.

5th April 2010 10:44 EST–Statement from Wikileaks

WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two
Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success
since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the
unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved
in the rescue were also seriously wounded. Continue reading