Sunday, July 02, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Why won't the Pentagon tell the public how many civilians they've killed in Iraq? We know they're counting.
Last week, for example, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli told reporters in Baghdad the number of Iraqi civilian deaths had dropped as a result of new training programs for American troops. He said the number of civilians killed in so-called "escalation of force" incidents had dropped from an average of four per week in January 2006 to one per week in June.
But Chiarelli did not release a detailed breakdown of where and how the deaths occurred, making the claims impossible to verify.
"The number of civilians harmed by operations is an important measure of how well U.S. forces are doing in avoiding harm to civilians," the director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), Sarah Holewinski, told me. "Still, we need to see the data backing up this claim."
A US military spokesperson in Baghdad told me the statistics were "classified."
Perhaps the Pentagon won't release detailed statistics because checkpoint killings are much more common than they claim, and that releasing such details would result in independent investigations showing the gap.

The above, noted by Cindy, is from Aaron Glantz' "Pentagon: Tell Us How Many Civilians You've Killed" (Common Dreams) ["Pacifica radio network reporter Aaron Glantz is author of the new book "How America Lost Iraq" (Tarcher/Penguin). More information at"]. Good for Glantz. Nancy A. Youssef's "U.S.: Civilian deaths feeding insurgency" broke on Monday and was greeted with . . . silence. We noted it here on Monday and subsequent days after. At The Third Estate Sunday Review this morning, we wrote "Psst, over here, it's the story you're not supposed to know about." If you read Polly's Brew this morning and read Mike's column, you know just who took a pass on when contacted by Mike, Eddie, Joan, Nora and Carl last week (for people not signed up for Polly's Brew, you can read a prelude to the column by clicking here). It's amazing how many were willing to waste not only their time but your own last week. They could, and did, bore you with administration spin or defending the not-very-brave New York Times. They could find (and did) countless topics to cover, they just couldn't cover the news. Polly wrote "a brief intro for Mike's column and it would have been longer but I got it just as I was assembling all the pieces of the newsletter. My reaction was pure shock. Seeing the various e-mails sent out and received and grasping how many people weren't ignornant of her [Nancy A. Youssef] story but just didn't feel it was worth covering was a severe let down. From this side of the pond, it looked like a real media response was gathering to your Bully Boy but now I have serious doubts. Thank you to Mike for writing it and to him, Eddie, Carl, Nora and Joan for their efforts." It was shocking.

A number of members have e-mailed today to ask exactly what the names on that list think is news? A very good question. Barney wrote that "I am ashamed for so many on the list." While I appreciate that sentiment, the shame is theirs, let them live with it. Rhonda wondered when I found out about it? I found out about it on Friday when we were all on the phone discussing the upcoming edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. Where are the highlights in this edition?
That's a question Ty told me was in the e-mails. There nowhere. That's not an oversight. When Mike revealed to us some of the names on the list (some because we are all saying, "No! Really?") we decided then and there, no highlights. During the week, most of us, if not at all, had done numerous links and some went out to places that elected to ignore the news. Not because they were unaware but for whatever other reason. So it was decided that we wouldn't provide highlights from any community site. We all thought of Betty but she was the most adament and said, "We don't rerun any of our posts." (Highlights did appear in the print version and appeared without noting any of the sites on that list, which made for start and start commentry in many cases.) It was shocking to see how many took a pass on actual news. They could repeat spin, they could repeat war pornography, they could repeat anything. They just couldn't note the very real fact that the administration had been caught in yet another lie -- and one that does matter.

[Betty's latest is "The cross-dressing, I can live with, the right-wing plotting . . .," by the way, it went up Saturday evening.]

We'll note Glantz. We'll applaud him for realizing that this is news and for covering it. But our hands won't go tired because there are so few others we can applaud.

For anyone who is confused, the government doesn't want the public to know the numbers. When you have an official count from the government (even if it's undercounted, as is the case in most wars), the public sees those numbers. They look at them and they think of the propaganda such as "We're there to help!" The numbers and the propaganda are in conflict. So what do you? Do you believe the sloganeering or give weight to figures? Figures trump. That's why pundits make up their own (frequently on air) on any topic. They know that a number looks and sounds 'concrete.'

"We don't do body counts," said Tommy Franks.

But the US is doing body counts on the Iraqi civilians. As Glantz notes, why won't they realse those numbers? The American people have a right to know the numbers (they also have, though few last week seemed to grasp this, a right to know that despite the lie, the numbers are being kept). I've already noted that two right-wing visitors e-mailed last week to say they'd take back some of their . . . comments. I've maintained here that the government was keeping figures. That led to some 'lively' response from the right-wing visitors. I need to update the figure, we've gotten twenty-one more e-mails from right-wing visitors. Some offer an apology some just toss out "sorry," but the issue of their e-mails is that they were lied to -- they were told that there were no figures being kept.

Why did this reach the ones that wrote in? Because it's numbers, it's something considered 'concrete.' Just the fact that they exist made the twenty-three (total) rethink some of the other things they've been told during this war.

Had the media noted Youssef's story, followed up on it, you might be having hearing some wonderful conversations on Tuesday. As it is, you're probably going to need to start those yourself because most people will not have heard the news: the government is keeping figures on Iraqi fatalities. Expect disbelief when you introduce that concept into a discussion. Hopefully, since you'll be with family and friends, it won't be along the lines of some of the e-mails that have come to this site for months, but however the refusal manifests itself, refer to Mike's column and the list and know that your job this Tuesday was made that much harder by those who chose not to note, cover or link to Youssef's story last week.

Mike was on the phone earlier. Nina found a typo in his Friday post. He needs an "I" in there. As it reads, if you're not used to Mike's writing, it looks as though I'm dissing a site. I told him he could correct if he wanted but I could care less. That site is on the list of those who choose to ignore Youssef's story. That site was contacted by Mike himself and that site elected not to cover it even though all that site does is provide headlines. But Youssef's story, which they were made aware of on Thursday and Mike even provided them with a link if searching was too much for them (provided on Friday morning) wasn't 'worthy.' Everyone's bothered by the silence on it, members e-mailing, everyone working on the Sunday edition, we're all bothered by it. I told Mike if he wants to correct it, do it the next time he blogs. Don't go in on Sunday. It's not worth it and that site has demonstrated it's not worth it.

Youssef's story was news. A lecture, for instance, on second-hand smoke (at this late date)? Not news. Hand wringing over what will become of the New York Times? Not news.

The New York Times, as it exists today, was created by Wall Street. It's not going under. It's very likely not even going to court. But didn't we all worry and posture last week, rushing to defend the lies of our Times. Rushing to prop them up (which even their own reporters don't feel like doing lately) and talk about how brave they were.

Reality is they had the story some time ago. Reality is they ran a highly watered version of what they knew and could verify. Reality is they were in very long negoitiations with the administration over what they could run and when they could run it. Reality is that the White House gets a whipping boy to try to drum up votes from the right and the left is supposed to be rushing in to praise the paper of no record. It's a created drama, it's not brave journalism and it's not worthy of defending.

But we can get lost in, sink in, that bit of self-created drama. We can do anything, apparently, except get real about the war.

On that note (getting real about the war), Tom highlights Paul Harris "A Soldier's Story" (UK's Observer via Common Dreams):

Combat can change a life in a second. The snap of a sniper's bullet or the blast of a bomb will instantly end it or turn a healthy body into a maimed wreck. But for US marine James Blake Miller what changed his life was the sudden shutter click of a war photographer's camera.
On a rooftop in Falluja, Miller was captured in a picture that has become one of the enduring images of the Iraq war. It showed his wan face, streaked with mud and blood, in a moment of reflection. His eyes stared out, tired yet determined. From his lips drooped a cigarette, curling a wisp of thin pale smoke.
That moment saw Miller, an ordinary soldier from the hills of Kentucky, turn into Marlboro Man, an everyday American hero.
The image hit the world on 10 November, 2004, as US marines stormed into Falluja to try to end a war that was supposed to have finished more than a year earlier. It appeared on newspaper front pages and made the cover of Time.
Miller's image became a symbol of steely resolve, of weary-yet-determined struggle, of the toughness of the American fighting man having a cigarette break before finishing the job. It captured a moment when most Americans still thought the invasion of Iraq a worthy undertaking.
Now Miller is a different symbol in a different time. As the war has dragged on, Miller's life has collapsed in the face of post-traumatic stress disorder. He draws a disability pension for his condition and his personal life is a wreck. He suffers from nightmares, panic attacks and survivor's guilt. Despite the immense goodwill of a grateful nation, Miller has slumped into struggle and despair. Last week came the news that he and his childhood sweetheart, Jessica, were getting divorced.

Yes, the war has dragged on. Sing the song:

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

So last Sunday, the American troops fatality count stood at 2519. Tonight? 2536. The numbers risen 17 since last Sunday. It shouldn't have risen by one because the United States should not be over there to begin with. But we're there and the numbers will continue to rise as the war continues to drag on which will take place as long as people avoid reality.

Danny Schechter has a wonderful column that we've already noted once (Friday). Hopefully, you've already read "An Idea for Media: Cover the War Like a Math Class." If you haven't, please do. His argument is that a "war clock" dealing with numbers would drive the reality home. That's very likely true (and an idea worth trying). I disagree only on the idea that the media has done any coverage of the war. The reality isn't making home to some in America. I agree with that 100%. But I don't think that's because the media coverage has tried but failed to convey reality.

(I'm referring largely to this paragraph: "The drama of human beings dying and a country like Iraq being devastated doesn't seem to register with many Americans. Perhaps that's because, as a nation, market logic has subsumed moral logic and nothing matters unless it is quantified." It is a small sub-point in his larger argument; however, I knew when I linked on Friday I'd hear about it in e-mails and from friends. I did, including from a broadcaster Friday.)

The coverage has been awful, it continues to be awful. Dexy, this morning, went "On the Road" with his most pentrating piece of . . . feature writing. He's never put any depth into has actual reporting (or "reporting"). He's the extreme example but it's true of much of the media. To take the evening newscasts on the big three, we're not getting reality. That's not just because X number of minutes is allowed for Iraq each night. (Gee, remember when something like what's going on in Iraq would have been the focus -- a bad focus, but still -- of night after night of Nightline?) In that X number, they choose to cover bits of reality and spin. The administration's aware that a half-hour evening news broadcast is not going to focus on Iraq. They fully grasp that if they can get a number of talking points out in the daily cycle, those points will make it into the brief alloted time for Iraq each night. They know they can make the most outlandish claims and, though a few viewers may add perspective, the "news" will simply repeat them. In doing so, what little reality about life on the ground in Iraq won't get covered.

Add in that you have embeds and you have a situation where most won't go outside the Green Zone -- or even venture around it -- without either private security guards or military guards.
"Things are bad," you'll hear from some (though rarely in the articles or in the interviews they give) and the reality is that things were bad for a very long time and, had they informed viewers or readers of that fact a long time ago, America would be more prepared to deal with the reality of the illegal war. They didn't do that, they didn't say, "We're just reporting from the Green Zone because it's too dangerous." Now, with the Green Zone not being so safe (and even being stormed two weeks ago), it's not safe for them anywhere. (A reality that many Iraqis have been living with since the illegal invasion.)

So no, when the media tapes their little bits to go out over the networks and they do their 'grim but resolute' faces, viewers have no idea of the reality -- that this was the safe spot in the Green Zone to broadcast from or that a military patrol is off camera or that a security patrol is off camera . . .

The media isn't covering the peace movement. That's pretty much all of the media, independent and mainstream. (Ruth's report will go up tomorrow evening. She's wanting to include Monday's Law and Disorder so she'll have four things to note -- after hours of listening last week -- she only has three broadcasts she can note.) Take a website (that I personally like) which has a poll about the 4th of July up. Are you eating BBQ with friends? Are you reading the Declaration of Indpendence? Assorted questions like that. You're supposed to vote.

Where do I vote? I'm taking part in CODEPINK's fast for the day. (I will be drinking, the party was planned months ago.) This is an independent media website that we're talking about that chooses to ask visitors how they'll be celebrating the 4th and they don't offer that option. It would be a wonderful opportunity to get the word out on the fast. But it didn't occur to them.
So that's one reason I won't buy into the idea that the media needs to find a new way to cover reality to get it through to Americans. It's not that they worked real hard to get it through to begin with.

Ehren Watada, last week, vigils across the country. How much did you see of that? Or hear of it? Or read of it?

If you noted the post we did where we highlighted coverage that was mainly coming from the mainstream. Where was the independent media? Coverage ahead of time, the day before, would have increased participation. Coverage the day after would have increased the next participation. Instead, it's as though it never happened.

So I do not and will not buy into any notion that the media needs a new tactic for conveying reality since their old tactic isn't working. Their old tacitc was to minimize or ignore. That was never going to inform.

Someone wrote about Suzanne Swift and wondering about the coverage with regards to her? On that, I can understand since her refusal to return to Iraq has been reported as having to do, in part, with sexual harrassment while she was serving. With that statment, a lot of her coverage went out the window. It's a he-said/she-said dyanmic and no one wants to get burned using her as an example. I think she's likely telling the truth. I think it's likely that, despite this, an investigation will come out saying nothing happened. (Look only to the problems in the last few years coming out of Colorado to grasp why I say that.)

Now the he-said/she-said dynamic did work in her favor with regards to NPR which goes out of its way to avoid noting the peace movement but did a do a story "on" her (she wasn't the focus of the story, the established sexual harrassment was the focus). With Swift, I can understand a reluctance. I can understand no one wanting to build up coverage on that topic because an investigation is underweigh and no one wants to look like a fool.

Others didn't have that aspect (or baggage) to their stories. Ehren Watada didn't. Camilo Mejia, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Kevin Benderman and Katherine Jashinski but they also didn't get a great deal of coverage. (Unless something changed drastically at NPR, Mejia has still been 'covered' only once -- on Tavis Smiley's program.)

The war drags on because the only reality comes via word of mouth. I've been speaking on various campuses for over three years now. (Started before the invasion.) I'm not doing 'general audiences.' I'm speaking to various groups that I belonged to when I was a student (years and years ago). That includes honor socieities and groups that usually composed of informed people. I was recently back at a campus I've gone to every year. Most of the people there this time were new faces (incoming faces). But those who had been there the year before and the year before that and (for one) the year before that, spoke of how much more traction the issue of Iraq has, how much easier it is to raise the issues because you don't have to launch into a lengthy let-me-catch-you-up briefing. That change didn't result from the media coverage.
It's a very real change and one that's not noted in a dopey 'campus activism' story that focuses on what well funded groups of Dem-lite kids are doing (as they brag about how they tricked their fellow students by selling wages or whatever on the back of Jesus -- and brag about it months before the final verdict comes in so they're not only Dem-lite, they're stupid).

I never show up with a prepared speech (I don't have the time for that to begin with but I'm not interested in giving a lecture). What I've noticed is that each year, I speak less and less. They're not sitting there in silence soaking up what I'm saying. They're adding to it. That was really noticeable in the summer of 2004 and it's only increased. They have their own issues and stories to share. Some from peace activities they've participated in, some from stories family members or friends who served over there and returned. They have very little to offer that they saw on their TV screens because reality doesn't make it onto their TV screens.

When someone says that the nation's not ready for a conversation on Iraq, they're incredibly sheltered and foolish. This conversation has been taking place, ongoing, without help of the media, without help from Congress (as a whole). Friday, I nearly bit the head of the broadcaster (who is a friend) when he tried to put the blame on "the youth of this country." I asked him (with swear words sprinkled heavily throughout) what exactly he knew about the youth of this country and exactly which ones he'd spoken to?

Or to use another example, a liberal/left commentator going on a non-Beltway program recently and repeating DC Beltway spin that the nation's not having this conversation. If they're not having it in your frou-frou neighborhood that may be because of you. You start the conversation, you don't wait for it to happen. But if you really believe that, you need to leave you gated community and step into the real world across the United States because this conversation is taking place.

So what's the point of this? (Besides the fact that Marci's daughter was at a conversation I was part of on campus last month and Marci asked that something on that be noted tonight.) (Marci's daughter, as I'm sure Marci knows, is incredibly smart. I didn't realize that was her daughter until I read the e-mail this evening. She mentioned somethings her daughter told her that she had raised in the conversation and added, "You may not remember her." I do remember her. I can tell you exactly what she was wearing -- blue jeans and a light blue concert t-shirt, though I'm forgetting who was on the t-shirt, sorry.)

The point is that Tuesday many of us will be with family and friends (or family/friends). Not all. Some will work, for instance. But if you're in the United States and you're at a gathering of any kind on Tuesday (of any number) and you don't use the opportunity to raise the issue of the war then you can join the camp that says "The nation's not ready for this conversation." The nation is ready. If you're not a young adult (or an emerging adult), you can stay silent and reap the rewards from the conversations that they are having. You can also expect the emergence of a generation gap that will make the sixties generation gap seem like something relatively minor.
You can safe and comfy in the knowledge that the conversation will go on without you and let others do the work that I'm assuming you believe in.

Or you can use the occassion to make sure the dialogue (already taking place) is ongoing and continues to build. The media's gong to do whatever it wants -- that point has demonstrated repeatedly. Quit depending on them. Quit expecting that they will lead. They didn't lead on Vietnam, they followed. Slightly. And the only after the country had shifted many years prior. The country has shifted on this war. Fools in the administration seem to think that talk of a 'turned corner' or another wave of Operation Happy Talk (or lower gas prices) will effect the shift. It won't.

A nation's turned against the war. There's not going to be a reversal on that. The costs, not covered much in the media, have been too high even for some who initially supported the invasion. It's not the numbers that are so striking, it's the firmness in the opinion and that can't be changed. What can happen is we can add to the numbers and that requires making the war an issue in our daily lives.


On July 4, we will launch an historic hunger strike called TROOPS HOME FAST in Washington, DC in front of the White House. While many Americans will be expressing their patriotism via barbeques and fireworks, we'll be fasting in memory of the dead and wounded, and calling for the troops to come home from Iraq. Read an interview with Diane Wilson to learn more. We're inviting people around the world to show their support for this open-ended fast by fasting for at least one day. Please sign here to join us in DC or to support us in your hometown and encourage your friends to do the same.

Two things on the above. Actually, three. If you can't take part, don't guilt, find another way to take action. Second, if you are taking part, that's your opening Tuesday. "Why aren't you eating? Aren't you hungry?" The answer isn't, "No, my stomach feels weird." You go on the fast in your area, you use the questions as an opportuinty to address the war. Third thing, before the news of everyone avoiding Youssef's article, Mike planned to write that he was taking part in the fast. He was on the fence because he loves the 4th foods. He's made his decision that he's going on the fast. He may blog on that tomorrow (though he said he's honestly not in the mood to blog right now) and asked if I would note his decision here. There were twelve people who e-mailed him after he wrote about being on the fence. He credits them with helping him to decide to go on the fast and asks that anyone who can join in the fast as well.

(I'll be something of a hypocrite because I will be serving food -- again, my party was planned six months ago -- but I will be taking part in the fast and anyone at the party who wants to join in is welcome to.)

Wally's mother is doing the feast on Monday so that she, Wally and her father (Wally's grandfather) can take part in it. Elaine's taking part in it, Rebecca's taking part in it (and notes it's a wonderful opportunity to get "swimsuit ready"), Kat's taking part in it, Jess, Ava, Ty, Dona and Jim are taking part in it, Trina, Betty and Cedric are taking part in it. Cedric says this will be his first fast and if it gets too bad, at nightfall, he may have tomato soup but he's going to see it through. If you're someone who wants to but is fearful of a day without solid food, think of it as a marathon and carb-load the day before. Members who have e-mailed to say they are taking part include Rachel, Micah, KeShawn, Billie, Eli and his granddaugher, Goldie and her mother, Kara, Kayla, Portland, West (and his parents), Marci (and her daughter), Brad, Rod, End Zone, Liang, Mary, Joan and Eddie (who says: "If a Texan beef lover can go on a fast on July 4th, what's anyone else's excuse for not?").

If you can't do it, you can't do it. Don't guilt. I was concerned about Kayla (because she's still nursing) but she says she's set up with fruit drinks (grape juice, orange juice, etc.) and she's also spoken with her doctor. There are a number of ways you can fast and Diane Wilson discusses some with Media Benjamin here.

Iraq snapshot.

On June 18th, we noted the following:

Meanwhile, KUNA is reporting that a water shortage in Kuwait has led the cabinet to call on all residents to conserve water and is blaming the shortage on "obstacles" to "the implementation of the ministry's plans and programs."

On a similar topic, IRIN is reporting:

A recent decision by the central government to cut the power supply to two northern governorates -- at the height of the summer heat -- has resulted in massive discomfort and inconvenience for local residents.
The north is being encouraged to produce its own electricty in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah.
"Since June 25, the central government has cut the electric supply to parts of the Kurdish region," explained Hussein Hamad, head of power distribution in the Arbil governorate. "This has had a negative impact on the power schedule set by the regional government for its citizens."

Via The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Iraq:"

A family of four dead in Mahmoudiya. That much is known. The rest? Under investigation. Two American soldiers have spoken of a rape and then killing of the family. One claims he saw blood on the shirts of at least one soldier and that he heard them planning the cover up.
Whether American journalists want to visit Mahmoudiya or not (the thought doesn't appear to have occurred to any of them), the allegations are having an impact in Iraq where the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars have issued a statement that "raping this girl then mutilating her is shameful and will remain as a sign of shame to American invaders."
Current June figures (they will probably be added to) are 62 American troops died last month (2 "others" as well) and at least 1,009 Iraqis civilians died.
Meanwhile Nouri al-Maliki takes his peace 'plan' on the road to Saudi Arabia where he wins "approval." That's the same plan that, while al-Maliki is out of the country, the parliment has announced they'll make "some changes" too. Also in parliment news, Tayseer al-Mashhadani was kidnapped on Saturday -- a Sunni and one of the few women serving in the parliment -- causing the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front to walk out and refuse to participate until al-Mashhadani is returned (she was kidnapped in a Shi'ite section of Baghdad). Another member of parliment, Shi'ite Iyad Jamal al-Din was targeted by a bomb that "just missed." Also on Sunday, Retuers is reporting that another member of parliment, Leqa al-Yaseen (Sunni, female) was the victim of an attempted kidnapping (apparently eight of her bodyguards were kidnapped). The approval of Saudi Arabia really doesn't seem to be the issue.
Saturday, a car bomb in a Baghdad market killed at least 62 and wounded over a hundred. AFP says 66 dead and notes this occurred after the explosion: "A US military vehicle, which attempted to approach the blast scene withdrew in the face of a hail of stones from angry residents."
In the "What you talking 'bout, Willis?" department, Reuters reports: "A PREVIOUSLY unknown Iraqi Sunni Muslim militant group claimed responsibility for a car bomb blast in Baghdad today that killed at least 66 people, saying it was avenging Shiite Muslim killings of Sunnis." B-b-b-b-ut, 8 or 10 or 8 of 10 'insurgent' groups were talking to the government about laying down arms! Remember the news telling us that! Remember how we couldn't get any real news because 8 or 10 or 8 out of 10 out of how many 100s of resistance groups were talking?Reuters reports a car bomb in Baqubua and multiple ones in Baghdad claimed the lives of at least five lives and wounded at least 32.

Since the last sentence was written this morning, not a lot reports have updated. Reuters notes that mortar rounds were fired on Baghdad's Yarmuk hospital (three wounded), an attack on a funeral in Khairnabat left at least two people dead, a bomb took the lives of at least four in Mahmudiya, and in Muqdidiya, a home invasion into the home of their chief of police has left the man wounded.

Pru gets the last word, steering us to Simon Assaf's "Torture of Iraqi prisoners self-inflicted says US army general" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

A recently revealed US department of defence report has sounded alarm bells among human rights groups. The report marks an attempt by the US military to reclassify the meaning of torture while discrediting its victims.
The 75 page investigation, concluded by Brigadier General Richard Formica in Autumn 2004, was made public earlier this month after a campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
According to ACLU the report is "a whitewash".
It is a heavily censored military investigation into torture by US special operations forces in Iraq that reveals the extent of the cover up in the wake of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in 2004.
It also unintentionally reveals the systemic brutality and torture that goes on in US camps around the world.
Formica investigated allegations of abuse of three Iraqis by special forces in early 2004 in one secret prison run by the US military.
One of the victims died under torture, and all references to him are blacked out. Two other prisoners made detailed claims of their maltreatment.
The detainees Formica interviewed had injuries that confirmed their allegations of torture.
They accused interrogators of stripping them naked, chaining them to the floor, playing loud music and sexually abusing them.
One detainee backs up his claims with medical reports that detail a fissure in his rectum caused by a "welded metal object", cigarette wounds to his hands and legs, and a dog bite to his shoulder.
But far from investigating the allegations, Formica hunts down alternative explanations.
He concluded that prisoners who were stripped naked were not abused as the US troops only wanted "to wash their clothes".
He also accused the detainee who was bitten by a dog of lying because the animal "was a pet and a distraction for team members".
In another smear he accepts soldiers' claims that blindfolded detainees were "hitting their heads against walls" in order to discredit the US army.
According to Formica, constant loud music, shouting and banging on cell doors with metal poles was simply to stop detainees talking to each other and "revealing tactical information".
Formica found that chaining detainees to the floor of a cell four foot by four foot was acceptable "to prevent escape".
In one of the most shocking statements, Formica claims that prisoners who were fed on bread and water for 17 days were not badly treated "because I found them in apparently good health".
Socialist Worker contacted a nutritionist in the NHS who said that an average male requires 2,550 calories a day. Bread, which has little protein or vitamin C, and the quantities given would provide only around 70 calories a day.
The effect of vitamin and protein deficiency would be to delay recovery from injury. In the long term it can cause severe health problems.
Formica claims that bread and water was a good diet.
In another key passage it is claimed that a detainee who was bound, hooded and "transported in the trunk of a car" was not being abused.
It was done for "his protection", the general concluded, "as there was a dangerous security situation at the time".
Formica ruled that the prisoners' statements could not be trusted because "of their association with high profile members of the former Baathist regime".
He also distrusted them because they lived in Adhamieh--a Sunni Muslim district of Baghdad.
The general says that the interrogators did break some "guidelines", but this was not deliberate as they were "unknowingly including the forbidden tactics".
The interpretation of torture became the focus of the investigations into Abu Ghraib. By stating that special forces were not aware of recent changes in the rules, Formica attempted to excuse their acts.
"I didn't find cruel and malicious criminals that are out there looking for detainees to abuse," Formica said in an interview recently. It was just "regrettable" that the soldiers were given the wrong policy.
For more go to
© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.If you found this article useful please help us maintain SW by supporting our » appeal.-->

The e-mail address for this site is