Iraq War Logs Reveal US Chose “El Salvador Option” to Secure Iraq
Screenshot taken from an al Jazeera English news report on Wikileaks and the US turning a blind eye to torture
More than 390,000 field reports known as the Iraq War Logs, leaked by Wikileaks, show the regular use of abuse, brutality and torture used on Iraqis by Iraqi Police and Iraqi Security Forces. The routine violations of human rights by the police and security forces, which US and Coalition forces have trained to takeover Iraq’s security as they withdraw, raise questions about the nature of conduct and operations between the US, Coalition, and the Iraqi forces.
“The El Salvador Option”
Reports show that police or security forces were likely given the task of detention and interrogation and the US forces were to transfer detainees into custody and perhaps check in regularly to figure out if any of the detainees were truly terrorists or not. And, other than those duties, it appears police and security forces had carte blanche to do as they please with Iraqi detainees.
ON 02JUN06 ___ SUBMITTED A SPOT REPORT TO THE ___ Military Police ___ OF A DETAINEE E ___ ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE BY THE CAPTURING UNIT. A ___ SUBMITTED THE FOLLOWING REPORT TO THE ___ Military Police ___: F Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ WAS INTERROGATED AT THE CAMP ___ THEATER ___ FACILITY ON 01JUN06. DURING THE INTERROGATION, Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ STATED THAT AFTER BEING BLINDFOLDED AND PLACED INTO A HMMWV, HE WAS KICKED IN THE GROIN AND PUNCHED IN THE LEFT SIDE OF HIS FACE BY A MARINE. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ ALSO STATED THAT AFTER HIS ARRIVAL AT THE FIRST BASE, HE WAS PUNCHED BY MEMBERS OF THE IRAQI ARMY AND AN ___. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ HAD NO SPECIFIC DETAILS ABOUT THE IRAQI ARMY MEMBERS OR THE ___, ONLY THAT HE WAS BLINDFOLDED AND RECOGNIZED THEIR ACCENTS. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ THEN STATED THAT UPON HIS ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND BASE, HE WAS CONTINUALLY KICKED IN THE GROIN FOR AN UNSPECIFIED AMOUNT OF TIME BY AN IRAQI OFFICER DRESSED IN A .___. SOLDIER E ___ UNIFORM. AFTER WHICH HE WAS PLACED ON THE GROUND FACE DOWN BY A ___, HAD HIS PANTS AND UNDERWEAR TAKEN OFF, AND HAD COLD WATER POURED ON HIS BARE BOTTOM. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ ALSO STATED HE WAS FORCED TO HOLD BOTTLES OF WATER IN FRONT OF HIM FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ COULD NOT PROVIDE ANY SPECIFIC INFORMATION PERTAINING TO HIS ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ COULD NOT PROVIDE NAMES OR DESCRIPTIONS OF INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED. G [“ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE ___ BY ___ IVO FALLUJAH: ___ INJ/DAMAGE”, May 18, 2006][emphasis added]
Some reports show how US forces helped give police or security forces the benefit of the doubt, like for example this chilling report involving one detainee that was sodomized with a bottle and brutally beaten. The US soldier filing the report chose to question whether abuse took place by citing a “motorcycle incident” the Iraqi police officer involved claimed the detainee experienced:
AT 191400C OCT ___ IN ___ (ZONE ___) IVO ___ NPTT ___ THAT – ___ BDE SPTT – ___ BDE SPTT CONDUCTED A ROUTINE INSPECTION OF THE – ___ [WOLF] BDE DETENTION FACILITY AND IDENTIFIED ONE PROBABLE CASE OF DETAINEE ABUSE. THE ALLEGED BEATING TOOK PLACE UNDER INTERROGATION AT THE — ___ HQ ON THE EVENING OF ___ OCT ___. THE DETAINEE WAS BLINDFOLDED AND IS UNABLE TO IDENTIFY THE OFFENDERS. THE DETAINEE CLAIMED HE WAS BEATEN ABOUT THE FEET AND LEGS WITH A BLUNT OBJECT, AND PUNCHED IN THE FACE AND ___. HE CLAIMED THAT ELECTRICITY WAS USED ON HIS FEET AND GENITALS, AND HE WAS ALSO [SODOMIZED] WITH A WATER BOTTLE. — ___ PERSONNEL CLAIMED IT WAS CAUSED BY THE DETAINEE FALLING FROM HIS MOTORCYCLE WHILE HE WAS BEING CHASED BY THE ___ . THE DETAINEE DISPLAYED GREAT DIFFICULTY WALKING WITH BRUISING AND SWELLING ON THE SOLES OF BOTH FEET. THE DETAINEE HAD LOCALIZED CUTS AND BRUISING ON BOTH LEGS (PRIMARILY THE LEFT), THE LEFT ARM, AND THE LEFT CHIN. THERE WERE NO INJURIES VISIBLE ON THE DETAINEE E ___ HANDS, UPPER ARMS, TORSO, UPPER LEGS, OR BUTTOCKS. HIS CLOTHING WAS NOT RIPPED OR DAMAGED, BUT DID DISPLAY BLOOD STAINS. THE NPTT E ___ INITIAL ASSESSMENT WAS THAT THE DETAINEE E ___ WOUNDS WERE NOT CONSISTENT WITH THAT FROM A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT, AND QUESTIONED THE DETAINEE IN FRONT OF THE JAIL GUARDS. THE DETAINEE MAINTAINED THAT HE WAS SIMPLY DRIVING SLOWLY AT THE TIME. WHEN ASKED IF HIS MOTORCYCLE TIPPED TO THE RIGHT OR LEFT, THE DETAINEE TOOK AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF TIME TO ANSWER …THE SPTT REMOVED THE DETAINEE TO A PRIVATE ROOM FOR FURTHER EXAMINATION. THE RESULTS OF THIS INCIDENT INCLUDE…” [“*ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE ___ BY -___ NPTT IN ___ (ZONE ): ___ INJ/DAMAGE”, October 19, 2006][emphasis added]
A Washington Post editorial published in 2005 provides context to the individual field reports.:
“OF ALL THE bloodshed in Iraq, none may be more disturbing than the campaign of torture and murder being conducted by U.S.-trained government police forces. Reports last week in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times chronicled how Iraqi Interior Ministry commando and police units have been infiltrated by two Shiite militias, which have been conducting ethnic cleansing and rounding up Sunnis suspected of supporting the insurgency. Hundreds of bodies have been appearing along roadsides and in garbage dumps, some with acid burns or with holes drilled in them. According to the searing account by Solomon Moore of the Los Angeles Times, “the Baghdad morgue reports that dozens of bodies arrive at the same time on a weekly basis, including scores of corpses with wrists bound by police handcuffs.” The reports followed a raid two weeks ago by U.S. troops on a clandestine Baghdad prison run by the Interior Ministry, where some 170 men, most of them Sunni and most of them starved or tortured, were found””
It shows that what journalist Nir Rosen called on Democracy Now! the “El Salvador Option” was likely employed. Iraqi death squads or police and security forces were used to cleanse areas of Iraq and beat sections of communities into submission through the terrorism of possible brutality. “The Wolf Brigade” The logs show that a “Wolf Battalion” or “Wolf Brigade” existed in Iraq, which went around terrorizing insurgents. The death squad was known for its brutality, known well enough that interrogators threatened detainees with the prospect of being turned over to the squad. For example:
“DURING THE INTERROGATION PROCESS THE ___ THREATENED THE SUBJECT DETAINEE THAT HE WOULD NEVER SEE HIS FAMILY AGAIN AND WOULD BE SENT TO THE WOLF BATTALION WHERE HE WOULD BE SUBJECT TO ALL THE PAIN AND AGONY THAT THE WOLF BATTALION IS KNOWN TO EXACT UPON ITS DETAINEES.” [December 14, 2005]
The Guardian details the Wolf Brigade:
“The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge of them was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.”
What also is apparent is the fact that Col. James Steele was involved in the training of forces, forces that operated like the Wolf Brigade. Journalist Dahr Jamail wrote about Col. Steele a few years ago:
“Retired Col. James Steele, who served as adviser on Iraqi security forces to then-U.S. ambassador John Negroponte, supervised the training of these forces. Steele was commander of the U.S. military advisory group in El Salvador 1984-86, while Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to nearby Honduras 1981-85. Negroponte was accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights in 1994. The Commission reported the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political workers.”
Col. Steele played a role in emboldening the El Salvador death squads. It can be surmised that he played the same role in Iraq. Additionally, details in log entries from 2004 and 2005, according to The Guardian , indicate US infantry raids led to the handing over of detainees to the Wolf Brigade for “further questioning” multiple times. And, New York Times Writer is cited explaining, “US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing.”
Torture Chambers Discovered
The field reports detail discoveries of “torture chambers” or, in some cases, “torture houses.” One update in a field report reads, “UPDATE: /-___ REPORTS A TORTURE CHAMBER WAS DISCOVERED AT MC ___ CONSISTING OF A CHAINSAW AND OTHER VARIOUS DEVICES.” Another report details:
AT 1715C, -___ In support of OPERATION STEEL CURTAIN DISCOVERED A POSSIBLE AIF SAFE HOUSE ( ) ___.5KM ___ OF NEW ___. THE HOUSE CONTAINED ___-COALITION MATERIALS, Improvised Explosive Device MAKING MATERIALS, ___ TANKS AND BATTERIES. -___ ALSO FOUND Improvised Explosive Device MAKING MATERIALS BEHIND THE HOUSE AND A SHACK SUSPECTED BEING USED AS A TORTURE CHAMBER . Sensitive Site Exploitation CONTINUES At this time. NO CASUALTIES OR DAMAGES REPORTED. [“SAFE HOUSE FOUND/CLEARED BY – ___ OF NEW : ___ INJ/DAMAGE”, November 14, 2005][emphasis added]
And, the following report describes forces finding a torture chamber. The report does not mention whether it is believed to be a remnant of Saddam Hussein’s regime or not.
LATE REPORT: Task force -___ IN DISCOVERED TORTURE HOUSE NE OF ___ At 051230C NOV , /-___ IN (Task force -___ IN) discovered a torture house In the vicinity of (___ MC ), ___.5km NE of ___, while conducting clearing operations In support of Operation ___ II ( ___). The unit was guided by a local civilian who stated that he was a torture victim and had personal knowledge of the whereabouts of both the ___ and the torture chamber. /-___ conducted Sensitive Site Exploitation and found an underground facility containing a secure chain possibly used for captives, a tube running to the surface possibly used to supply air and food and multiple cots were discovered. Due to the inability of the ___ Assault Force (___) to leave a permanent present force behind to secure the torture chamber site and prevent the enemy from ___ the facility to conduct further torture and murder/intimidation activities, Explosive Ordnance Disposal [bomb defuser] destroyed the facility with a controlled detonation without incurring any collateral damage to existing structures surrounding the site. Additionally, while clearing an adjacent building In the vicinity of ( ), /-___ detained (___) suspected enemy ( ___). The (___) detainee was identified by (___) local national sources as a ___ and Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device maker. The detainee also had a small cache in his possession consisting of (___) AK-, (___) rounds ___ ammunition, and multiple AK-___ magazines. All personnel were wearing required ___. There were no Coalition Forces, ISF or civilian casualties or damages to equipment. [“(FRIENDLY ACTION) SMALL UNIT ACTIONS RPT TF -___ IN : ___ AIF DET”, November 5, 2007]
Fragmentary Order 242 or Frago 242, which allowed for US soldiers to report detainee abuse or torture, and, if the case did not involve US or Coalition forces, give the matter no further attention or investigation. In other words, it became standard protocol to be complicit in allowing Iraqi police or security forces to carry out abuse and torture when policing and securing the country against Al Qaeda, insurgents or terrorism. An incident June 19, 2005, demonstrates how “Frago 242” was invoked. The report has a description of the incident involving the detainee.
“ON ___ JUN ___ FROM FOB ISKANDARIYAH. ___ WAS APPREHENDED BY /___ ACR ___ ON ___ MAY ___ DURING A RAID AND TURNED THE DETAINEE OVER TO ___ IRAQI POLICE. ___ MADE A STATEMENT SAYING HE WAS HIT BY THE IRAQI POLICE ON HIS EARS, BACK, ARMS AND LEGS. ___ HAD VISIBLE BRUISING AND ___ ON HIS BACK. THERE WERE NO COALITION FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE INCIDENT. ___. DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT INVOLVING DETAINEE ___: DETAINEE , ___, WAS RECEIVED AT ___ ON ___ JUN . ___ WAS TRANSPORTED TO ___ BY /___ BCT FOB ISKANDARIYAH. ___ WAS BROUGHT TO ___ WITH BRUISES TO HIS LEFT SHOULDER, FOREHEAD, AND LEFT BUTTOCKS. HE WAS MEDICALLY EXAMINED BY ___ WHO FOUND ___ HAD HIS LEFT SHOULDER, FOREHEAD AND LEFT BUTTOCKS BEATEN BY IRAQI POLICE OFFICERS IN THEIR POLICE STATION AT , ___. NO COALITION FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE INCIDENT”
But, above the description of the incident is the note, “PER ___ FRAGO ___, ONLY AN INITIAL REPORT ___ FOR APPARENT ___ VIOLATIONS BY OR AGAINST ALLIED MILITARY OR CIVILIAN PERSONNEL NOT INVOLVING US FORCES PERSONNEL. NO FURTHER INVESTIGATION ___ UNLESS DIRECTED BY ___.” The nature of recorded reports of Iraqi on Iraqi brutality often detail beatings of arms, legs, back, buttocks, etc. Some involve much more grotesque tactics:
” A CF party, including a ___ went to the Ar ___ Police Department iot investigate a statement that was done by an ___. He mentioned that detainees are tortured in prison by IZ Police Officers. Using a hygienic inspection as an excuse, ___ detainees were searched and questioned without IZP attendance. The conclusion taken after this is that drug or medicine users are being tortured specially during dark hours. Methods they are using are to blindfold the detainee and hang them upside down on their feet iot hit them on their foot soles. Also the use of an electrical device is confirmed. This subject ___ with senior IZP Officers iot stop this, also ___ inspections ___. [“A CF party, including a ___ went to the Ar ___ Police Department iot investigate a statement that was done by an ___. He mentioned that detainees are tortured in prison by IZ ___” February 10, 2004] ON 29MAY05 AN MNF-___ APPROVED JOINT INTERROGATION PROJECT WITH THE IRAQI POLICE IN MOSUL REVEALED EVIDENCE OF PRIOR TORTURE/ABUSE ON 3X LOCAL NATIONALS THAT HAD BEEN CAPTURED APPROX. ___. EXAMINATION OF THE DETAINEES SHOWED LACERATIONS ON WRISTS FROM HANDCUFFS, BRUISING ON THE BACK AND THIGHS, BRUISING ON FACE. DETAINEES ALLEGE THAT THEY WERE BEATEN BY POLICE WITH CABLE ON THE BACK, CHEST AND FACE; HUNG BY THE WRISTS AND FORCED TO CONFESS TO TERRORIST ACTS. [“SUSPECTED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IPS IVO MOSUL: ___ DETAINEES ALLEGE ABUSE”, May 29, 2005]
Channel 4 News reported that the Bureau of Investigative Jounralsm (TBIJ) and Channel 4 Dispatches found “between 2004 and 2009 32,563 civilians were murdered” and that of the numerous unidentified corpses, which coalition forces often found in the Tigris River, “10,871 civilians were shot in the head, 439 were decapitated and up to 164 were recorded as children.” The news organization suggested these “murders” were largely a result of “sectarian death squads.”
TBIJ and Dispatches also found “over 300 classified reports in the Iraq war logs alleging abuse by coalition forces on Iraqi prisoners after the Abu Ghraib scandal” and that, in the time span covered by the logs, “some 180,000 Iraqis were imprisoned” or appoximately “one in 50 of the adult male population of Iraq” were imprisoned. And, “more than 1,300 individual cases of torture and abuse carried out by Iraqis on Iraqi prisoners at police stations and army bases, which imply that coalition forces either witnessed or reported on themselves” occurred.
In a good society, revelations of torture and the use of police or security forces, which operate like death squads, should be cause for judicial inquiry or independent investigation. It should be a kind of teaching moment for leaders and an opportunity for soul searching among citizens who decide whether this is the nature of foreign policy they want their government to promote (and, since a number of citizens likely bought the idea that Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein, it’s even more important to be outraged that US and coalition forces were and likely continue to be complicit in allowing brutal tactics Saddam Hussein was known for using on Iraqis).
Britain and other countries with coalition forces are taking the Iraq War Logs seriously. Inquiries into how torture became systematic and how indisciriminate attacks or murder became part of the war and occupation will be opened. That the Obama Administration and the US government will likely be absent from any inquiry into the war to investigate crimes committed is a bitter indication of how a Washington Consensus or set of rules holds government captive. What power the UN or other countries have over the US to compel investigations of war crimes is unknown. But, one imagines that the US is headed down a road where it will ultimately find itself alone spending blood and treasure on wars of occupation that few countries choose to support.
The burden on US citizens will increase. More and more US soldiers will be asked to torture and kill and commit indiscriminate attacks. The Iraq War Logs spell out the years between 2004 and 2009 and how the war effort was managed. They also suggest what 2009 to 2013 could be like. With a permanent occupation of 50,000 troops and tens of thousands of contractors still there, there will be more bloodshed and more clear violations of the so-called Laws of War.