More information about how the torture-murder of Iraqi Gen. Mowhoush came to light — and the context in which it ocurred. Utah GI exposed abuses at prison. His reports were brushed off until fellow Utahn stepped in:
The Army captain appeared confused. “You’re using ‘sledgehammer’ figuratively?” he asked the enlisted soldier sitting before him.
“No sir,” the soldier replied, lifting his hands about 15 inches apart. “The handle of a sledgehammer, about this big . . . to assault the detainees with.”
For Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pratt it would have been far easier to look away.
(spotted via Amygdala, How Sgt. 1ST Class Michael Pratt blew the whistle)
More uglies from the story:
A soldier with a squeaky-clean record and reputation during his 18 years in the Utah National Guard, Pratt was apparently unprepared for what he found in his first few months with some of the regular Army soldiers of the 3rd Cavalry.
Among the allegations made in his testimony: That he had witnessed a soldier shoot a 14-year-old boy in the back during a raid – as the boy was running away. That matter, he claimed, was never thoroughly investigated, though fellow soldiers assured him that the rules of engagement had been followed when the teen was shot.
Later, when he learned that unqualified soldiers were conducting interrogations, Pratt again logged a compliant. In response, he testified, he was investigated – and told by other soldiers it was for blackmail purposes.
The final blow came when Pratt reported that a group of combat engineers had confiscated a large stash of currency from an Iraqi family who intended to use the money to send their daughter to Jordan for an operation. When he reported the matter to an officer in his chain of command, Pratt said, “he told me I was getting too close to the Iraqis. He accused me of losing my objectivity.”
“After that incident,” Pratt said. “I realized that it was pointless to report anything.”
Though aware that detainees were often stuffed into lockers, wrapped with blankets and electric cords – and, Pratt alleged, sometimes beaten with a sledgehammer handle – he didn’t seek an investigation.
Michael, granted that torture is something no civilized nation wants to celebrate or make a part of official military practice if it can be avoided. However, there are circumstances in which it can be argued that torture may well be the lesser of two evils. In N. Ireland for example, RUC special squad operatives used torture in order to extract confessions that enabled security forces to pre-empt bombing outrages that could easily have increased the death toll by many thousands.
Who are we fighting in Iraq? Does Musab al Zarqawi and his bombers pay even scant attention to international law or the provisions of the Geneva Convention. Forget about the American presence … have the al Zarqawis of this world EVER paid any regard to such civilized conventions. Do the inmates of prisons in Syria and Iran get due consideration of any sort? Recently in Toronto, Canadians of Iranian descent gathered to weep as they watched video footage a young Iranian man being hung from a crane for the crime of adultery. The brutality that is a matter of course – a given – in this part of the world is not merely directed at the Americans, it is directed at citizens of countries like Iran.
The regime in Tehran as you know was founded by that great master of mass psychosis, the Ayatollah Khomenei. I find it very instructive that during a recent visit to Iran for a Vanity Fair story, Christopher Hitchens visited the holy city of Qom where he dined with the grandson of the late Ayatollah Khomenei. Remarkable as it may seem, this grandson is now calling for intervention by the USA and wishes to see the demise of the state his grandfather founded.
Many citizens of countries in the Middle East , look to America as a beacon of hope, and many also understand that the U.S. has to fight fire with fire if it is to win a military struggle in a region with a long history of violent oppression.
Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of invading Iraq, the USA is now engaged and it’s marines are fighting a very real war. When you announce “another soldier who deserves a medal” in order to laud a man who has revealed a torture detail, what does this say to U.S. soldiers who are fighting with great heroism against a tide of barbarians who behead their adversaries, send the gullible to their deaths as “walking bombs”, employ every illegal tactic in the book to win irrespective of any tenets enshrined in Geneva?
Even Amnesty International has come out to condemn the barbarity of the insurgents. When you send a human bomb into a street where children are lining up to receive candy from a marine, and expressly try to slaughter as many children as possible, you are committing a crime that no military or political incursion on your soil can ever begin to justify. Even the IRA and Basque separatists in the hey day of their campaigns ever stooped so low.
So with all due respect, it seems to me that undue obsession with the rather mild excesses of U.S. interrogators (compared to the grotesque brutality of the insurgents and their allies), is somewhat missplaced. Of course we don’t want to see the allies resorting to the lowest of methods as a matter of course, but we are far from reaching that point. Regrettable though the treatment of detainees was in Abhu Ghraib, it also verged on the comical – like some overdone Monty Python skit that showcases low voltage shocks, nude pyramids, enforced kneeling, sleep deprivation and such. Nothing to be proud of granted, but also nothing to become hysterical about.
Those who claim that all of this is happening because we are invaders in Muslim lands, do a disservice to Muslims who live in a condition of oppression. There is no monolithic “Islamic sanctuary” reserved only for Wahhabist followers of the prophet Muhammad. These are nations composed mainly of people of the Muslim faith, who hold divergent political views. Students and “progressive” thinkers in Tehran who are calling for American intervention are a very different breed from traditional mullahs and their followers. In short a sizable minority in these lands not only welcome the American presence, but wish that it was more dynamic and more true to the Bush creed of liberation.
I find it ironical that the left around the globe rallied like crusaders to make the trek to Spain in order to overthrow Franco. There was no cry then that “we can’t do this because Spain belongs to the sons of the Conquistadors”. Compared to reactionary mullahs and Ba’athist tyrants in the Middle East, Franco seems like a rather benign figure, a grandfatherly cognac sipper with a few too many medals. Spain at that time wasn’t a conduit for suicide bombers and fanatical jihadists; it wasn’t an “engine” for the creation and exportation of terror. Yet these same leftists today balk at confronting autocrats who are violently opposing the democratic values they (the left) have struggled to defend for decades. Apparently hatred for Bush and anti-Israel sentiment, will allow even Beelzebub to arise and prosper in this region.
It makes me wonder what it will take before American liberals are prepared to oppose a declared enemy, rather than hold out hopes for some bizarre brokerage arrangement in the belief that some how, some way, we can all end up understanding and respecting one another.
The blowbacks to whistleblowers in every arena are nothing short of vicious. The long-term effects on careerists and just basic good people caught up in this crap will be devastating. Been there myself, and it sure as hell ruined my life. A great description of the effect can be found in “Special Agent Jane Turner vs. The FBI” http://citypages.com/databank/25/1244/article12538.asp
Another article I recall reading in the New Yorker (poss titled “The American Taliban” Aug 2003? – loaned to my sister so I can’t check) about a Justice Dept attorney in the ethics division who warned Asscroft not to interrogate John Walker Lindh without counsel present. They purged her warnings from the file and set about sabotaging her performance reviews when she revealed that to the court. When she bowed to their warning that it would only get worse and she should seek employment elsewhere, they (falsely) informed her new employer that she was the subject of a criminal investigation and got her fired.
The whistleblowers are bona fide heroes and our only hope – and I have such empathy for soldiers in this mix. Persisting in that type of hostile environment is often described as being in battle full-time — coupled with literally being in battle, the stress must be excruciating.