How to lose a war
TalkLeft has an article about a car bomb killing 35 children in Baghdad. The other day, Knight Ridder reported that more Iraqis have been killed by American forces than by insurgents. Mark Danner's latest in the New York Review of Books quotes a translator saying, "I always knew the Americans would bring electricity back to Baghdad. I just never thought they'd be shooting it up my ass."
The piece is about the Fay and Schlesinger reports on Abu Ghraib, but the portrait it, and presumably they, paint is horrific. Abu Ghraib "lacked interpreters, interrogators, guards, detainee uniforms, and just about everything else, including edible food, and that, at its height, was staggering under an impossible prisoner-to-guard ratio of seventy-five to one, all the way up to the command staff of Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, which lacked, among other vital resources, two thirds of its assigned officers."
Soldiers would respond to a mortar attack by cordoning off the nearby blocks, then arrest, apparently at random, anyone they found. They figured someone else would sort through the people. Once the prisoners reached Abu Ghraib, it was assumed that they were guilty, since the soldiers wouldn't have sent people to prison if they did nothing.
One woman's account of the torture at Abu Ghraib was published in the Guardian. A neighbor was blackmailing her, threatening to rat her out to the Americans if she didn't pay him. She tried to head him off, went to the Americans with her brothers, explained the situation. After talking for a while, the officer arrested her and sent her and her brothers to Abu Ghraib.
Alazawi says that US guards left her sitting on the chair overnight, and that the next day they took her to a room known by detainees as "the torturing place". "The US officer told us: 'If you don't confess we will torture you. So you have to confess.' My hands were handcuffed. They took off my boots and stood me in the mud with my face against the wall. I could hear women and men shouting and weeping. I recognised one of the cries as my brother Mu'taz. I wanted to see what was going on so I tried to move the cloth from my eyes. When I did, I fainted."
Like most Iraqi women, Alazawi is reluctant to talk about what she saw but says that her brother Mu'taz was brutally sexually assaulted. Then it was her turn to be interrogated. "The informant and an American officer were both in the room. The informant started talking. He said, 'You are the lady who funds your brothers to attack the Americans.' I speak some English so I replied: 'He is a liar.' The American officer then hit me on both cheeks. I fell to the ground.
Alazawi says that American guards then made her stand with her face against the wall for 12 hours, from noon until midnight. Afterwards they returned her to her cell. "The cell had no ceiling. It was raining. At midnight they threw something at my sister's feet. It was my brother Ayad. He was bleeding from his legs, knees and forehead. I told my sister: 'Find out if he's still breathing.' She said: 'No. Nothing.' I started crying. The next day they took away his body."
The death certificate said he died of "cardiac arrest of unknown etiology."
I can't find this online, but Anthony Lewis's NYRB piece from 15 July relates these stories:
The Human Rights Watch report describes, in language that is if anything understated, such things as the killing of Iraqi military officers who were in American custody and were being interrogated. One was Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who had been the chief of Iraqi air defenses. He was captured in October 2003, and died on November 26, 2003, in a US detention facility in Iraq. At first the Pentagon released a death certificate saying that he had died of "natural causes." But after a Denver Post story questioned the circumstances of his death, the Pentagon admitted that an autopsy report said General Mowhoush died of "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression" and said there was "evidence of blunt force trauma to teh chest and legs." The Pentagon said a homicide investigation was underway.
Another Iraqi officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kareem 'Abd al-Jalil, died on January 9, 2004, while at an interrogation facility. The original death certificate said he died of "natural causes ... during his sleep." After stories on the Denver Post and on German television indicating that American soldiers had "danced on his belly," the Pentagon issued a new death certificate describing his death as a homicide from "blunt force injuries and asphyxia."
According to Danner's latest, there have been five deaths definitely attributed to interrogation methods, and 23 others under investigation.
This is how we lose. We piss off everyone, kill more Iraqis with backroom torture and bombing residential neighborhoods. This won't get better until there is a wholesale change in leadership.