Thursday, December 08, 2005

Connecting dots

This is from the Christian Science Monitor.
Pretty, huh?
Only 36% of Americans say that torture is unequivocally wrong. Pathetic. Is it any wonder that our leaders have a problem taking a stand against the policy?

Read the article that goes along with the chart. There one Major R. John Stukey...

...a US Army doctor who served in Baghdad from January to June, frequently visited Interior Ministry facilities on the east side of Baghdad to assess the health of prisoners. He says he personally treated about a dozen men who had been tortured and observed an environment of overcrowding and neglect.

Many more of his patients alleged torture, but in most cases this couldn't be verified, since he often saw them for the first time months after their initial arrests and interrogations. In one east Baghdad facility run by Iraq's Interior Ministry, a few miles from the secret jail that was raided by US forces on Nov. 13, Major Stukey says about 220 men were held in filthy conditions in a space so crowded that many couldn't lie down to sleep.

Stukey visited the facilities with members of the 720th US Military Police Battalion. The MPs filed frequent reports to their commanders about the ill-treatment and, Stukey says, did what they could to prevent torture and improve the prisoners' conditions. They made a point of distributing soap, toothbrushes, and Korans whenever they visited.

"We did report what we saw, but it was like trying to put out a forest fire with a bucket of water,'' says Stukey by telephone at Fort Rucker in Alabama, where he is currently based. "The MPs submitted reports at least several times a week on detention issues. We knew about it, and we tried to change it, but it was just one of those things you had to deal with."
Stukey recalls treating one Sunni businessman, about to be released, "who was beaten so badly that his fingernails had fallen off, some pulled off, and I felt ashamed to be associated with it."

It is important to note that this abuse is not being done by US personnel directly. Instead it is being done by Iraqi Security forces. But it is being done with the tacit aproval of US representtives reluctant to intervene. The question is why?
Iyad Allawi, the former Iraqi prime minister and close US ally, told The Observer, a British newspaper, last month that "people are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse." The British are currently investigating allegations that the Iraqi police tortured two men to death with electric drills in the southern city of Basra. In Baghdad, this reporter met with four survivors of police custody who bore injuries consistent with their alleged torture with electric shocks and other implements.

I bring this up because it seems to be related to the case of Steven Vincent, whose widow was just put through a lacerating experience as the result of an interview published at Iraqi in America two days ago.

I don't know the details because Fayrouz has wisely deleted an offensive string of comments to her original post and smoothed the whole thing over in what strikes me as an extraordinarily charitable gesture. She now generously dismisses the whole affair as a misunderstanding. Maybe so, but Lisa Ramaci's remarks in the now published interview are an echo of the SC Monitor article linked above.
I will go further, and state publicly and for the record that I believe members of SCIRI, under the direction of Bayad Jabr, the Interior Minister, were responsible for Steven's execution and Nour's near-death. An eyewitness to their abduction has been quoted as saying that he recognized at least one of the men who grabbed them as being a member of the Ministry of the Interior, and more and more articles are being written suggesting that uniformed men from the Interior Ministry are responsible for the current wave of abductions, tortures, imprisonment and murders of Sunni Iraqis.

At one point about halfway through his final trip, Steven interviewed some of the local SCIRI goons in Basra, and told me in an email that the whole time he was there he felt very uneasy due to a real sense of menace he felt from them, and he thought the only thing which had saved him was the fact that for the moment he was their guest, and ironbound rules of Arab hospitality kept him, for the moment, safe. Once he was no longer their guest, of course, it was a different story altogether, as the world saw on August 2nd.

That's right. He was killed.
That's the part of her interview that I deleted at Fayrouz' request which I have now been given permission to quote.
This interview and this article are related. The connection, unfortunately, is not the result of Steven Vincent's reporting, but his attempt to report the connection seems to have resulted in his death.
That is the reason that I was, and still am very frustrated that the Steven Vincent story is not being held up to a strong public spotlight. He was on to something. Events now coming to light prove him to be correct.

And according to this morning's brief report by Vicky O'Hara on NPR there is still an official blanket of silence covering the issue of US complicity in Iraqi abuse and, yes, unlawful killing of -- in what manner do we now name them? Prisoners? Detainees? Persons of interest? Suspects? PUC's (persons under control)?

That last one is my favorite. It's the one preferred by our own guys dealing with "suspected terrorists" or their accomplices.

In light of the ambiguity of American public opinion regarding torture and abuse (look at the chart) it is not surprising that leaders have a hard time speaking out against it unequivocally.
John McCain and others might be barking up the wrong tree.

The Secretary of Defense says we can't be telling other people what to do in their own country. That being the case, why then are we there? Models of morality?
I don't think the lessons are working.

According to the NPR report, the doctor has been told not to give any more interviews. Small wonder. But the facts are beginning to be known, with or without his interviews. And the reporting that cost Steven Vincent his life is proving not to have been done in vain.

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