Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bad apples my Ass! Trial reveals ops of CIA/Army Torture units

Every Day a new revelation, a new Stain on our national honor, a new worry that maybe those stains are permanent.  a fear that even after Chimpy and his minions are rotting in their well-deserved places in hell, we'll never be the same, never able to look the world straight in the eye again, never occupy anything resembling the moral high ground.  

Today we take another blow, learn of another outrage, committed in our name and by our people.  Thanks to some First class reporting by Josh White of the Washington Post we have the sordid story of Army Interrogators and a CIA Torture Squad, who teamed up to literally beat a nearly 60 year-old Iraqi POW  to death.)  Worse yet, this is nothing more than SOP for these units.

So much for isolated incidents and bad apples:  

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn, ...a series of intense beatings ...were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6

Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

And let there be no mistake about this being a random or aberrant act.  The CIA trained thugs who delivered the rubber hose beating were merely part of a highly structured system of brutality:

At Blacksmith, according to military sources, there was a tiered system of interrogations. Army interrogators were the first level.

When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the three. "The personnel were dressed in civilian clothes and wore balaclavas to hide their identity," according to a Jan. 18, 2004, report for the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

If they did not get what they wanted, the interrogators would deliver the detainees to a small team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads, code-named Scorpions, according to a military source familiar with the operation."

Sometimes, soldiers and intelligence officers used the mere existence of the paramilitary unit as a threat to induce detainees to talk, one Army soldier said in an interview. "Detainees knew that if they went to those people, bad things would happen," the soldier said. "It was used as a motivator to get them to talk. They didn't want to go with the masked men."

The Scorpions went by nicknames such as Alligator and Cobra.

Well isn't that lovely? They even went to the trouble to the have special uniforms  and dangerous sounding codenames for our torturers as well.  I wonder if it brought some solace to the operative assigned to breaking the bones of a helpless detainee that he got a cool code name as part of the deal?

The Story of general Mowhoush's Demise is as sickening for its brutality as it was the Futility and worthlessness of the tactics used.  It needn't have been that way.  The man eventually beaten to death for his intransigence started his ordeal by voluntarily walking onto the US Army Base

The U.S. military initially told reporters that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid. In reality, he had walked into the Forward Operating Base "Tiger" in Qaim on Nov. 10, 2003, hoping to speak with U.S. commanders to secure the release of his sons, who had been arrested in raids 11 days earlier.

Now in the annals of military honor, This kind of voluntary appearance, even of an enemy, is understood to be a Parley, and safe conduct is an implicit guarantee.  This has been an accepted part of the rules warfare stretching back to about 1200 b.c. when Piram appeared at Achilles tent during the Trojan war to beg for the return of his son's body.

Unfortunately for the General, he appeared at the wrong place at the wrong time, and honor was the least of the soldiers' concerns.

In the months before Mowhoush's detention, military intelligence officials across Iraq had been discussing interrogation tactics, expressing a desire to ramp things up and expand their allowed techniques to include more severe methods, such as beatings that did not leave permanent damage, and exploiting detainees' fear of dogs and snakes, according to documents released by the Army.

Officials in Baghdad wrote an e-mail to interrogators in the field on Aug. 14, 2003, stating that the "gloves are coming off" and asking them to develop "wish lists" of tactics they would like to use

Now lets be clear: Gen Mowhoush was hardly an angel:

The general, they believed, had been a high-ranking official in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard and a key supporter of the insurgency in northwestern Iraq. Mowhoush was one of a few generals whom Hussein had given "execution authority," U.S. commanders believed, meaning that he could execute someone on sight, and he had been notorious among Shiites in southern Iraq for brutality.

But that is part of what makes what happened to him so stupid.  This is a man who had survived and thrived working for a capricious and brutal dictator was hardly going to be intimidated by a few masked thugs.  And when they were nice to him they were getting results:

The heavyset and imposing man was moderately cooperative in his first days of detention. He told interrogators that he was the commander of the al Quds Golden Division, an organization of trusted loyalists fueling the insurgency with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles, machine guns and other small arms.

but then apparently he wasn't giving them "enough", whatever that was:

A week into Mowhoush's detainment, according to classified investigative documents, interrogators were getting fed up with the prisoner. In a "current situation summary" PowerPoint presentation dated Nov. 18, Army officials wrote about his intransigence, using his first name (spelled "Abid" in Army documents):

(Now lets just take a moment to digest the fact that our torturers are documenting their evil with Freaking Powerpoint Presentations!!  If that doesn't speak to the utter banality of evil, I don't know what does)

And then the interrogator did an exceptionally stupid thing:

In an interrogation that could be witnessed by the entire detainee population, Mowhoush was put into an undescribed "stress position" that caused the other detainees to stand "with heads bowed and solemn looks on their faces," said the document.

"I asked Abid if he was strong enough a leader to put an end to the attacks that I believed he was behind," the document said, quoting an unidentified interrogator. "He did not deny he was behind the attacks as he had denied previously, he simply said because I had humiliated him, he would not be able to stop the attacks. I take this as an admission of guilt."

Well I'm not an expert on the Iraqi psyche but I take that as a simple statement of fact.  Whatever credibility the General had with his men was destroyed when he was publicly made to seem weak and powerless before the interrogators.  In ten seconds some middle rank interrogator, following an idiotic playbook, turned a potential ally, who might have saved the lives of hundreds of troops and civilians, into a powerless middle-aged man.

A few days later, still blaming the general for their troubles, the interrogators ramped up the treatment even more

On Nov. 24, the CIA and one of its four-man Scorpion units interrogated Mowhoush,...

"OGA Brian and the four indig were interrogating an unknown detainee," according to a classified memo, using the slang "other government agency" for the CIA and "indig" for indigenous Iraqis.

"When he didn't answer or provided an answer that they didn't like, at first [redacted] would slap Mowhoush, and then after a few slaps, it turned into punches," Ryan testified. "And then from punches, it turned into [redacted] using a piece of hose."

"The indig were hitting the detainee with fists, a club and a length of rubber hose," according to classified investigative records.

Soldiers heard Mowhoush "being beaten with a hard object" and heard him "screaming" from down the hall, according to the Jan. 18, 2004, provost marshal's report. The report said four Army guards had to carry Mowhoush back to his cell.

Two Days Later the Fatal sleeping Bag beating occurred.


Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. did a first round of interrogations for 30 minutes, taking a 15-minute break and resuming at 8:45. According to court testimony, Welshofer and Spec. Jerry L. Loper, a mechanic assuming the role of guard, put Mowhoush into the sleeping bag and wrapped the bag in electrical wire.

Welshofer allegedly crouched over Mowhoush's chest to talk to him.

Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer, a linguist, stood nearby.

Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Williams, an intelligence analyst, came to observe progress.

Investigative records show that Mowhoush "becomes unresponsive" at 9:06 a.m. Medics tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes before pronouncing him dead.

and every one of the soliders involved in the fatal beating, and their superiors defended their actions in the subsequent investigation:

In a preliminary court hearing in March for Williams, Loper and Sommer, retired Chief Warrant Officer Richard Manwaring, an interrogator who worked with Welshofer in Iraq, testified that using the sleeping bag and putting detainees in a wall locker and banging on it were "appropriate" techniques that he himself used to frighten detainees and make them tense....

Col. David A. Teeples, who then commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, told the court he believed "claustrophobic technique" was both approved and effective. It was used before, and for some time after, Mowhoush's death, according to sources familiar with the interrogation operation.

"My thought was that the death of Mowhoush was brought about by [redacted] and then it was unfortunate and accidental, what had happened under an interrogation by our people," Teeples said in court, according to a transcript.

You know, its just one of those unfortunate and unforeseeable accidents that someone you work over for three hours with a rubber house and then stuff into a sleeping bag and kick the hell out of dies.  oopsie.

Well at least they've admitted that they were actually there when he died, which is more than can be said for the CIA:

The CIA has tried hard to conceal the existence of the Scorpions. CIA classification officials have monitored pretrial hearings in the case and have urged the court to close much of the hearing on national security grounds.

The ..."Autopsy Examination Report" of Mowhoush's death was manipulated to avoid references to the CIA. In contrast to the other autopsy reports of suspicious detainee deaths released by the Army, Mowhoush's name is redacted and under "Circumstances of Death," the form says: "This Iraqi [redacted] died while in U.S. custody. The details surrounding the circumstances at the time of death are classified."

Huh. Well isn't that Convenient  the highly embarrassing fact of the existence of CIA trained torturers just happens to also be a classified matter of national security.   Otherwise I'm   sure they'd love to discuss the evil they are doing in our name at length.   too bad.

Well the one ray of hope in this sordid mess is this time the Sacrificial lambs, uuhh Soldiers, on trial aren't going to roll over like WV's famous Fun Couple: England and Grainer:

Frank Spinner, an attorney for Welshofer, said his client is going to fight the murder charge. Reading from a statement prepared by Welshofer during his Article 32 hearing this spring, Spinner quoted his client as saying that he is proud of the job he did and that his efforts saved U.S. soldiers' lives


William Cassara, who represents Williams, {said}"The interrogation techniques were known and were approved of by the upper echelons of command of the 3rd ACR," Cassara said in a news conference. "They believed, and still do, that they were appropriate and proper."

I'm not sure which is scarier, the fact that he might have really believed that, or the fact that the evidence may prove him right


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