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Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 29, 2004

 
I don't think it's quite fair to condemn the whole program because of a single slip up.

Cuba Base Sent Its Interrogators to Iraqi Prison

Interrogation experts from the American detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were sent to Iraq last fall and played a major role in training American military intelligence teams at Abu Ghraib prison there, senior military officials said Friday.

The teams from Guantánamo Bay, which had operated there under directives allowing broad latitude in questioning "enemy combatants," played a central role at Abu Ghraib through December, the officials said, a time when the worst abuses of prisoners were taking place. Prisoners captured in Iraq, unlike those sent from Afghanistan to Guantánamo, were to be protected by the Geneva Conventions.

The teams were sent to Iraq for 90-day tours at the urging of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, then the head of detention operations at Guantánamo. General Miller was sent to Iraq last summer to recommend improvements in the intelligence gathering and detention operations there, a defense official said.

[...]

In interviews, two military intelligence soldiers who served at Abu Ghraib as part of the 205th Brigade described the unit from Guantánamo as having played a notable role in setting up the interrogation unit in Iraq, which they said was modeled closely after the one that General Miller put in place in Cuba.

"They were sent to Iraq to set up a Gitmo-style prison at Abu Ghraib," a military intelligence soldier said of the unit. None of the soldiers knew what military unit the group from Guantánamo had been drawn from, but one of them said he understood that it had also served earlier in a detention facility in Guantánamo.


It wasn't a bunch of bad apples. It was at the explicit instruction of General Geoffrey D Ripper, who sent in his best leg breakers to teach 'em how to get the job done.

And then, as reports of the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib were coming to light the Bush administration decided that the best way to deal with the problem was to put in charge the same guy who had recommended and implemented the abuse and torture in the first place.

How long will it take for somebody to ask, considering his history at the prison, why in the world General Ripper was brought in after the scandal broke? I'm just asking. He is, after all, an obviously sadistic freak who is one of the causes of the greatest foreign policy PR disaster in American history.

I have a suggestion as to who might replace him:

The commander of Guantánamo Bay, sacked amid charges from the Pentagon that he was too soft on detainees, said he faced constant tension from military interrogators trying to extract information from inmates.

Brigadier General Rick Baccus was removed from his post in October 2002, apparently after frustrating military intelligence officers by granting detainees such privileges as distributing copies of the Koran and adjusting meal times for Ramadan. He also disciplined prison guards for screaming at inmates.

In one of the general's first interviews since his dismissal, he told the Guardian: "I was mislabelled as someone who coddled detainees. In fact, what we were doing was our mission professionally."

[...]

Eighteen months after being removed from Guantánamo, Gen Baccus, 51, and a commander of the Rhode Island National Guard, is still waiting for a new military assignment.


As for Guantanamo, I keep reading this refrain about prisoners with negligible or non-existent ties to al Qaeda or the Taliban having been "sold" for four or five thousand dollars by the Northern Alliance or others. They held the five Britons for more than two years as "unlawful combatants" and then the UK just set them free. How many other "terrorists" like that are there down in Guantanamo?

From the Frontline Documentary Son of Al-Qaeda"

What's your impression of Guantanamo? Do a lot of people belong there? What's your impression of the inmates?

They asked me always this question. I told them in 100 percent there is 80 percent of people that went to Afghanistan, like people that can't do anything. They've had enough. If you put them back in their countries they won't do anything. That's in 80 percent.

Among those 80 percent there is almost 60 in those 80, 60 that are people that haven't done anything. People that worked in a project in Pakistan, an old man that his son brought him, you know, just to sell him for $5,000. Drug dealers, people that didn't have anything to do with Al Qaeda were put there for no reason but because someone brought them there or someone thought of getting thousands for them, whoever captured them that they were Al Qaeda.

The rest, the 20 percent from the whole 100 percent, there's 10 percent of them that should be kept there and 10 percent of them if they go out and they catch up with Al Qaeda again they might go back to being Al Qaeda. But there's only like 10 percent of the people that are really dangerous, that should be there and the rest are people that don't have anything to do with it, don't even, don't even understand what they're doing here.

Just explain the bounty hunting, how people ended up there. That they paid a bounty.

At the very beginning, after Americans took over Afghanistan, they needed to show the American public that you know, we have got people. So there was normal Afghans would catch normal Arabs, normal small Arabs and go to the American base and tell them, you know what, we have a big commander. The American would say yes okay and they would just buy him.

If the Americans were paying large bounties, a large amount of money they would have ended up with a lot of innocent people there, don't you think?

Yes, a lot of innocent people. I told you the one story, I remember two, actually. One is the father that was brought by his own son. The son gave him a gun and took him up to an American base up there and took $5,000 for him. That's one story.

The second story is a drug user, a person that was sitting next to me, not worried about being in jail, not worried about what's going to happen to his family, not worried about what he's going to get. All he's worried about every time he asks the MPs to come around, asking them for a smoke, asking them for some hashish for you know, for marijuana, something like that, you know. Not even, he doesn't even know what he's doing here. Truly a drug addict, not Al Qaeda at all.


Yet, despite the obvious probability of corruption and error in capturing these "dangerous terrorists," the Geneva Conventions were openly discarded because we could not take a chance that these people could be set free on a technicality if they were allowed any kind of due process. Indeed, we couldn't even treat them humanely or eschew torture in interrogations. And when Iraq didn't turn out to be the promised cakewalk, and the damned Iraqis refused to cooperate sufficiently in their foreign occupation, we decided we couldn't take a chance on due process or humane treatment with them either.

And wherever the orders for endless incarceration and torture don't get followed the way they're supposed to, whether from the resistence of a decent, professional soldier or the inattention of a half baked reserve general, the go-to guy is General Geoffrey D. Ripper.






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