Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What they never wrote down

The Bush administration torture memos Obama released don’t mention any of the worst methods of torture used

The methods described in the Bush administration memos released by Obama do include torture, but they don't come close to the worst torture methods used by the US army and the CIA (not to mention some of the British army in Iraq).

Prisoners' heads were beaten against concrete floors to 'restrain' them, even when they were already on the cell floor with several guards holding them down.

For instance Sean Baker of the Kentucky National Guard says was left brain damaged when made to play the role of a prisoner in a training exercise at Guantanamo (1).

At Bagram air base, Abu Ghraib and other prisons and military bases prisoners were tortured by beating and kicking them and asphyxiating them by waterboarding or sitting on them while they were tied inside a sleeping bag (2).

Baha Mousa died after being kicked and beaten by squads of British soldiers over several days and nights - other soldiers not involved in the torture testified, but the officer who oversaw the torture was still promoted (3).

Afghan prisoners similarly died after prolonged torture by beating by American soldiers at Bagram air base and being chained to the roofs of their cells by their arms. They turned out to have no involvement in terrorism (4).

Members of the US military who tried to testify on the fact that military intelligence officers were approving, ordering and over-seeing these torture methods - and that other senior officers were uninterested or threatened the whistle blowers with prosecution when they were told of them - were confined to base and threatened with prosecution.

One was Sergeant Samuel Provance, who served as a military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib. When he reported to superiors that high ranking military intelligence officers had told him they had ordered and overseen the torture methods used he was threatened with prosecution (5).

Captain Ian Fishback, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and reported seeing prisoners arms and legs broken with baseball bats, with his superiors unconcerned when he told them - until he went public, when they confined him to Fort Bragg (6), (7).

The Bush administration was full of old hands at organising torture and death squads in Latin America in the 1980s - and good at propaganda. They didn't put authorisation for the worst torture methods down in writing. They made memos about the less bad methods, so that when the memos were released, people would wonder what all the fuss had been about. For plausible deniability the paper trail must look morally good or neutral, with the worst orders only ever given by word of mouth or by making it clear a blind eye will be turned to those actions.

(1) = New York Times 05 Jun 2004 ‘Beating Specialist Baker’, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/05/opinion/beating-specialist-baker.html?scp=1&sq=kristof+sean+baker&st=nyt

(2) = CBS News 24 Jun 2004 ‘Intel GIs To Be Charged In Death’, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/06/25/iraq/main626121.shtml

(3) = Panorama – BBC 15 March 2007, 14:55 GMT - A good kicking: Transcript http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/6455113.stm

(4) = New York Times 20 May 2005 ‘In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths’, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/20/international/asia/20abuse.html?ex=1274241600&en=4579c146cb14cfd6&ei=5088

(5) = ABC News 21 May 2004 ‘Military Punishes Abu Ghraib Key Witness’, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=131659&page=1

(6) = Washington Post 28 Sep 2005 ‘A Matter of Honor’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/27/AR2005092701527_pf.html

(7) = Sunday Times 02 Oct 2005 ‘How America tiptoed into the torture chamber’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-1806906,00.html

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