This week, an extraordinary documentary produced by the BBC in tandem with The Guardian appeared online:
Through a careful accumulation of eyewitness interviews and supporting corroborative evidence, the documentary clearly establishes the link between US advisors and Iraqi paramilitary torture/death squads, transpiring beneath the dead eyes of veteran dirty war expert James Steele, who had seen it all many times before. His CV (as published in The Guardian) reads as follows:
Steele’s career trajectory perfectly encapsulates the pitch black philosophy of counterinsurgency that has guided the actions of the US military for over fifty years. In his recently published book on US war crimes in Vietnam book, Nick Turse identifies the core tenet of this philosophy as “kill anything that moves”. But there is a secondary imperative: to extract as much “intelligence” as possible through torture prior to final disposal. Even if the information ultimately proves worthless, torture provides a potent form of teaching, for those left alive.
Early on in the video, we took note of a reference to a September 2005 memo written by Donald Rumsfeld to then-president Bush, forwarding a report from boots-on-the-ground Citizen Steele. Rumsfeld titled the memo “Texture”. Rumsfeld writes, “The attached memo is from a person we have sent into Iraq from time to time essentially to work with the Iraqi police. He is smart, tough and a keen observer. Nonetheless, you have said you like ‘texture,’ and this is texture.”
In his report, Mr. Steele seems anxious to distance himself from “thugs” such as the commander of the Wolf Brigade and their death squad militia – yet it was Steele himself who was instrumental in arming and empowering these same militia to perform wet work on behalf of the US military. Was he engaging in a bit of track covering, anticipating eventual investigations into possible war crimes? Or did he fear meeting with a similar fate as that of his compatriot torture teacher, Daniel Mitrione?
Following a series of links in search of more information on the relationship between Steele and members of the Bush administration, we came across the transcript of a speech given in December 2005 by Donald Rumsfeld at Johns Hopkins University, on the subject “The Future of Iraq”. The entire speech is worth reviewing, above all in light of the extensive documentary evidence of the systematic torture and abuse of civilian detainees; for now let us focus on one excerpt from the Q & A:
First, we note that Mr. Rumsfeld appears to suggest that a belief in one’s mind that something is true is sufficient to establish truth, regardless of empirical evidence to the contrary. Second, if the US claims that international law does not apply to “the terrorists and the people who blow up children”, who decides – and by what criteria – which individuals qualify as members of this extralegal category of “terrorists”? Those who are accused as such by terrified detainees, while they are being tortured by sectarian death squads?
Let’s assume that every individual who was tortured was in fact a member of a terrorist group; have we officially discarded the bothersome notion that basic human rights are “inalienable”? Forgive the rhetorical question – we know the answer.