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Leaked documents expose U.S. atrocities in Iraq

Published Oct 27, 2010 8:09 PM

A prisoner was kneeling on the ground, blindfolded and handcuffed, when an Iraqi soldier kicked him in the neck. A U.S. marine sergeant was watching and reported the incident, which was duly recorded and deemed “valid.” The outcome: “No investigation required.”

This is only one incident covered in the almost 400,000 leaked secret war documents published by WikiLeaks on Oct. 22. Here, U.S. Army soldiers report on the U.S.-led war and occupation in Iraq. (www.Wikileaks.org)

The scope and scale of the atrocities revealed in the reports are stunning. They reveal the plight of hundreds of entirely helpless victims — bound, gagged, blindfolded and isolated. Men in uniforms using wire cables, metal rods, rubber hoses, wooden stakes, TV antennae, plastic water pipes, engine fan belts or chains are whipping them.

At the torturers’ whims, the logs reveal, the victim can be hung by his wrists or ankles; knotted up in stress positions; sexually molested or raped; tormented with hot peppers, cigarettes, acid, pliers or boiling water — and always with little fear of retribution since, in most cases the perpetrators have the tacit, if not active approval, of the U.S. high command.

Most of the victims are young men, but logs also record serious sexual and other assaults on women; on young people, including a boy of 16 who was hung from the ceiling and beaten; and on the elderly and vulnerable, including a disabled man whose injured leg was deliberately attacked.

The logs identify perpetrators from many geographical areas and sectors of the war effort. The atrocities are not limited to Iraqi puppet troops. The documents reveal many previously unreported killings of civilians by private contractors such as Blackwater, as well as massacres of civilians by uniformed U.S. troops. One Apache helicopter crew, which had been exposed in a leaked video showing them massacring civilians on the ground, was revealed to have earlier killed insurgents who were surrendering. U.S. military authorities had given clearance for the murders.

The logs reveal numerous claims of U.S. troop assaults on detainees, particularly by marines. A woman reports being pulled by her hair and kicked in the face; she displays injuries that confirm her story. A former detainee claims a U.S. soldier kicked his legs and punched his chest and arms; the man has multiple contusions and abrasions all over his body.

On several occasions, U.S. soldiers reported on their colleagues. One describes a fellow soldier choking a detainee before pointing an unloaded shotgun at his belly and pulling the trigger.

License to torture and kill

Many of the corporate media have attempted to shift the blame for the systematic torture and civilian killings to the Iraqi security forces, and away from the U.S.-led war coalition forces.

How could they miss all the references to Frago 242 which appear in hundreds of the documents? A frago is a “fragmentary order” which summarizes a complex requirement. Issued in June 2004, one year after the invasion of Iraq, Frago 242 orders coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves coalition members. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, “only an initial report will be made ... No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ.” (Wikileaks.org, Oct. 22)

This document clarifies that U.S. forces are being directed to ignore the torture of civilians by the Iraqis. However, U.S. involvement doesn’t stop there.

James Steele is a U.S. counterinsurgency “expert” with a record going back to the war in El Salvador. Peter Maas wrote in the New York Times, that General David Petraeus, the commander in chief of U.S. forces in Iraq, refers to Steele as “the man” with an “entre to everything” going on in Iraq. (Guardian, Oct. 23)

Steele had a working relationship with the Iraqi elite Interior Ministry Commandos, nicknamed the “Wolf Brigade” because of its fearsome reputation. The WikiLeaks documents report that prisoners in U.S. custody were often threatened with being sent to the Wolf Brigade if they didn’t cooperate.

In 2007, Peter Maas accompanied James Steele to witness an “interview” conducted by the Wolf Brigade where torture was openly being carried out on civilians. “There was blood running down the side of the desk ... I could hear horrible screams. ...”

U.S. imperialism has many heinous war crimes to answer for, including those being carried out in its war and occupation of Iraq.