Friday, January 20, 2006

Killing generals

A CIA interrogator testified about the murder of an Iraqi general:
witnesses testified that Mowhoush died after he was stuffed headfirst into a sleeping bag and wrapped in electrical cord during interrogations by [the defendant, Chief Warrant Officer] Welshofer, who also sat on his chest and periodically covered his mouth.

The [CIA] man with the secret identity told the six-officer jury that interrogation rules in Iraq forbade such techniques without permission from Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top Army boss in the war zone.

The witness didn’t see any illegal interrogation techniques, but he testified he was “alarmed” when Welshofer told him that rules were routinely broken.

Another witness, Chief Warrant Officer Todd Sonnek, a Green Beret assigned to interrogations at the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment’s makeshift prison near the Syrian border, described more violent torture. Sonnek testified that on Nov. 24, 2003, Welshofer invited 10 people, including Iraqis and “civilians,” a word used in court to denote CIA operatives, into a room where Mowhoush was being questioned.

The technique Welshofer wanted the group to use was called “fear-up” — designed to terrify a prisoner like Mowhoush into talking, Sonnek testified. The regiment considered Mowhoush a “facilitator,” who gave guidance and cash to insurgents and foreign terrorists sneaking into Iraq from Syria. He was in the top five of their most-wanted list.

The group showered the general with questions, insults and slaps, Sonnek testified. The group got rage rather than answers from Mowhoush, who broke his plastic handcuffs, Sonnek said.

The Green Beret said he tackled the general as the rest of the people in the room flew into a fury of fists and feet in a beating that lasted two to three minutes. Mowhoush was covered in bruises when he died, autopsy photos entered as evidence showed.
A general of a combatant force is undeniably subject to the Geneva Accords, and beating him, tying him up in a sleeping bag until he dies is probably outside of what is permissible.

As a Human Rights Watch report says:

"In the course of 2005, it became indisputable that U.S. mistreatment of detainees reflected not a failure of training, discipline or oversight, but a deliberate policy choice," the rights group said in a sweeping critique in its annual report. "The problem could not be reduced to a few bad apples at the bottom of the barrel."
The incident above seems to implicate General Sanchez, either for authorizing the actions which lead to the Iraqi general's death, or by providing inadequate oversight.

At the same time, 23 retired military leaders have signed this letter (PDF) supporting the full application of the McCain torture ban.

Iraqi Bleeding After Being Attacked By A Military Dog In Abu Ghraib.
But General Miller, testifying in a trial regarding the misuse of dogs to terrorize prisoners at Abu Ghraib during his command there took the Fifth. That's not an admission of guilt, of course, but experts say it is a highly unusual move, especially since he's testified on these matters before. Another General was given immunity in the case around the time General Miller made his decision.
Military dogs were brought to Iraq in fall 2003 on the recommendation of General Miller, who said they could help maintain order. An inquiry by three Army generals found that Colonel Pappas believed, incorrectly, that the dogs could be used in interrogations without the approval of Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the top American commander in Iraq.

Military lawyers said Colonel Pappas's testimony could offer new insights into the origins of the abusive techniques and what, if any, role General Miller had played.
Miller also imported other abusive interrogation techniques to Abu Ghraib,

The Washington Post found that many interrogators at Guantanamo and in Iraq specifically rejected those techniques as excessive and not helpful. "The military's top lawyers also warned that the approval of such tactics could lead to abuse and unlawful conduct."

That the judgment of those top lawyers was overridden suggests that the torture at Abu Ghraib, the murder of a general, and the ongoing abuses in Guantanamo are the product of decisions made by the very most senior members of the Administration, including Don Rumsfeld and then White House Counsel (now Attorney General) Alberto "Bind, Torture, Kill" Gonzales.