Sunday, November 27, 2005

Detention, serious issue for potential Dutch mission in Afghanistan

The Dutch government and media have been debating over recent weeks the viability of Dutch forces taking over control the Southern Afghan province of Uruzgan (under NATO command) in May 2006. The UK and NATO invited the Dutch to take control of this troubled province, as a part of the large expansion of NATO participation in the ISAF, International Security Assistance Force.

Reuters reported this week that Dutch Military Intelligence, the Military establishment and Cabinet members have real fears about the management of detention in such a possible deployment.

Aside from the documented killings of detainees in Kunar Province and Bagram by US forces, in Afghanistan, Uruzgan province has been the site of abuse-related controversy.

Allegations of mass detention of villagers in Uruzgan arose last year in the documentary Taliban Country, and of course most recently, two American soldiers were charged only weeks ago in connection with physically attacking detainees in the same province.

Articles in the Dutch alternative and mainstream media have raised the question as to whether it is in the national interest to send troops into a counterinsurgency-type situation.

Reuters reports that the Dutch will require a Memorandum of Understanding with the Afghan government specifically regarding detention.

It is important to observe that Holland's only other major peacekeeping operation, during the war in Bosnia, was widely considered a disaster. The shame and controversy over the perceieved Dutch battalion's failure at Srebrenica led to the resignation of an entire Dutch government.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Horror in Iraq: who is mimicking who?

Two Iraqi businessmen report, as a part of their lawsuit in US court, that they were thrown into the lion cage in one of Saddam's palaces, shortly after the invasion of their country, by US troops. They were beaten repeatedly and asked where Saddam was and about weapons of mass destruction, and experienced numerous "mock executions."

And this same week US troops burst into the putrid basement of a building of the Ministry of the Interior in a Baghdad suburb, to discover 173 undocumented, tormented, tortured prisoners. There were teenagers in the group, and according to some, the vast majority were Sunni Arabs. (This discovery did not surprise many Iraqis, especially Sunni.)

The Deputy Ministry of the Interior, Hussein Kamal, after inspecting the prisoners, which he claims he was totally unaware were in the Ministry's custody, said to CNN, "I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralysed and some had their skin peeled off various parts of their bodies."

In the past year numerous reports, by Sunnis, Iraqi human rights groups, Western human rights groups, and major western media have detailed the brutal free reign of certain elements Iraqi defense forces.

The building in question was reportedly run by "police commandos" and the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior has vehemently denied their connection to a group with links to Iran called the Supreme Council for Iraqi Revolution.

The Iraqi government consented to these raids after meetings with the American ambassador and military commanders, according to American officials.

In a rather ironic twist, after Abu Ghraib and last week's allegations of secret CIA detention facilities in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, Brigadier General Karl Horst of the 3rd Infantry Division, the commander of the raid, stated to the LA Times that he would "hit every last one" of the secret detention facilities.

It seems clear that any investigation into this discovery will prove that the combination of torture and impunity that the Bush administration has cultivated during the occupation has indeed provided fertile ground for the Iraqi version to flourish.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Torture does not work, ask the CIA

In the LA Times, from an ex-CIA counter-terrorism chief, it's all explained here: what John McCain and 89 other senators already know.

If you inflict enough pain on someone, they will give you information, but what they tell you may not be true. You will have to corroborate it, which will take time. And, unless you kill every suspect you brutalize, you will make enemies of them, their families, maybe their entire villages. What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust — even with a terrorist, even if it's time-consuming — than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets, who believed that national security always trumped human rights.

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 07, 2005

Alleged CIA "black sites" in E. Europe

The Washington Post's story revealing two secret prisons in Eastern European nations made shockwaves this week in Europe and around the world.

Dana Priest's reporting, which necessarily relied on anonymous "intelligence officers" as sources, details the creation of a web of secret prisons starting with the war in Afghanistan in 2001. At one point there were prisons in Thailand, Afghanistan and "small democracies in Eastern Europe." The CIA subsequently shut the prison in Thailand at the request of the Thai government.

The "Salt Pit" (referred to in abuse documents) remains open in Afghanistan. According to Priest's report, in total the CIA holds about 30 "high-value" prisoners, an unknown number remaining in the two mentioned sites in Eastern Europe.

Since the article's publication November 2, Human Rights Watch came forward with evidence that the CIA's "rendition" program made repeated trips with charter jets to airfields in Poland and Romania, suggesting that these were the two countries hosting secret CIA facilities.

Following this report, there was swift reaction in Europe, as it would seem rather scandalous that EU member states could host prisons which are in contravention of numerous European and international laws and treaties. Polish officials admitted that a plane did in fact touch down on the tarmac at a remote, rarely-used airfield on the very day that HRW claims a CIA-chartered plane landed there. Romanian officials denied entirely the insinuation that the CIA holds prisoners at one of its airport facilities.

The Council of Europe's Human Rights chief Alvaro Gil-Robles was the most outspoken, following the HRW allegations, calling for an investigation.

But a European Union spokesman said only with more evidence would the EU investigate the allegations, which both Polish and Romanian officials have denied.

One wonders whether for lack of further evidence, this story and investigation into the possibility of CIA "black sites" in Eastern Europe will die. Interesting are to be raised, if indeed the allegations are true: why Europe? Why didn't the CIA use Central Asian airbases? Why wasn't the "Salt Pit" in Afghanistan sufficient to hold the 30 "high value" prisoners?

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 05, 2005

MP acquitted in Bagram abuse case

A soldier from Cincinnati-based Military Police battalion 377 was acquitted by a military jury on charges of beating an Afghan prisoner at Bagram. The prisoner, who the soldiers had sarcastically named "Timmy" (after the retarded character of South Park), allegedly suffered beatings during his imprisonment. He could not be located to testify, and military prosecutors were forced to rely on one eyewitness. Military justice once again seems unequipped to successfully prosecute abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Labels: , , ,