Saturday, March 18, 2006

NY Times Says Torture Took Place Both Before And After Abu Ghraib

Preznit Bush says we don't torture prisoners. So how would you characterize this treatment of Iraqi prisoners by a Special Operations force that ran a detention center in Iraq complete with an interrogation facility (i.e., torture chamber) known as the "black room"?

In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.

The Black Room was part of a temporary detention site at Camp Nama, the secret headquarters of a shadowy military unit known as Task Force 6-26. Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many insurgents on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away.

Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, "NO BLOOD, NO FOUL." The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. "The reality is, there were no rules there," another Pentagon official said.

This Task Force 6-26 detention center was off limits to everyone, even the Red Cross. The Times says nobody knows really how bad the torture in the center was or how many prisoners were mistreated. The Times does note that the declassified documents about Task Force 6-26 belie the Pentagon's and Bush administration's assertions that prisoner abuse in Iraq was limited to a few malcontents on the nightshift at Abu Ghraib.

Unfortunately we'll probably never learn the full extent of the torture and murders perpetrated by American military and intelligence personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay because this Republican Congress, led by water carriers like Senator Pat Roberts and Senator John Warner, have done everything in their power to keep these abuses under wraps and this administration has taken great pains to scapegoat only low level personnel for the abuses.

The administration of course defends itself by saying 9/11 changed everything and the United States has to do everything in its power to hunt down insurgents in Iraq and terrorists everywhere even if it means ratcheting up interrogation techniques and walking a dangerous line between legal treatment and torture.

But the Times article says that the harsh interrogations at Camp Nama by Task Force 6-26 yielded little information to capture insurgents or save American lives.

Just like the NSA spying program and the allegations made in US News and World report that Bush authorized warrantless searches of terrorist suspects on domestic soil, this administration has repeatedly broken the law in order to save us from "terrorists" and in the process torn the Constitution to shreds.

And the Republicans in Congress and their GOP allies on the cable and sunday shows demagogue anybody who criticizes the administration's law-breaking gestapo tactics as "aiding an abetting the terrorists."

What do you think the grandfather of the conservative movement, Barry Goldwater, would say about all this?

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