Thursday, May 13, 2004

R2I - resistance to interrogation  

Starting point:

A Wretched New Picture Of America: Photos From Iraq Prison Show We Are Our Own Worst Enemy, Philip Kennicott,Washington Post, Wednesday, May 5, 2004

This from the Guardian is a good source of information about R2I or resistance to interrogation.

The question as posed by habitablezone in a short post is "...what commonality there was between British R2I techniques and the U.S. "Coercive techniques."

The Guardian quotes a former British special forces officer:

"It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn't know what they were doing."

He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre in Ashford, Kent, now transferred to the former US base at Chicksands.

Officer goes on:

"There is a reservoir of knowledge about these interrogation techniques which is retained by former special forces soldiers who are being rehired as private contractors in Iraq. Contractors are bringing in their old friends".

U.S. Congressmen have seen the rest of the Abu Ghraib picture and at least one video. We have heard for the first time from Lynndie England, who says "It was orders".

And, not at all strangely, while these acts stick the knife into western culture and values and twist it, they continue to be excused, defended and rationalised so assiduously.

Lynndie will probably get rich, almost certainly driving the BMW alluded to in my cod script (BELOW) "Abu Ghraib : The Movie.

In Prison Mutiny: What the torturers of Abu Ghraib have wrought Tuesday 4 May 2004) Chris Hitchens points out something mentioned occasionally but not enough: Abu Ghraib was Saddam's torture and execution centre and should never have been used by the Americans to detain Iraqis, post-Saddam. The fact that the U.S. failed to demolish Abu Ghraib right away shows they do not care what Iraqis think or feel. It's not about Iraq, stupid!


"It is as if British or American soldiers had not only executed German prisoners of war, but had force-marched them to Dachau in order to commit the atrocity."

Right from the Stars and Stripes over Saddam's statue in Fidor square on 9 April 2003 to the present we have seen more and more evidence that they see the Iraqis as
(a) part of 9-11, and
(b) are going to make no effort whatsoever to treat the Iraqis, allowing for the necessity to find the rogues and criminals, with the respect they are due.

There is only one sentence American politicians, officials, serving officers or soldiers need to write down on a piece of paper and keep in their pockets for easy access:

"Don't forget we liberated Iraqis from a vile tyrant and we said we were bringing them freedom and democracy".

Of course the Iraqis have not been afforded a smidgen of the freedom that the American citizen takes for granted, as Abu Ghraib highlights. It makes a mockery of Bush's repeated desire for "freedom and democracy" for everyone. He, of all people, should know - since he is a born-again Christian who presumably knows his Bible - that Christ's religion was a religion of acts not words, though Jesus used a few choice ones. The words Bush has used in public so far on Abu Ghraib have been pitifully wanting in the Christianity department. I would have wanted an explanation of why so many were detained. The numbers are down to a few thousand now. This proves the point. Most were innocent. It was simply a "grape shot" method.


We know everything we will ever need, or want, to know about one, ignorant, silly, American non-combat military policewoman and her associates, "hill-billy hicks" as someone called them, two of whom were prison guards in civilian life.

We know nothing about the Iraqi (or is he another nationality?) man, his face clearly visible, attached by the neck to the lead Lynndie England held him by. When are they going to give us a list of the names? No journalist seems to have thought fit to find out the name of the dead Iraqi packed in ice. The fact that no one can be bothered to ask the five word question "Can we have their names?", shows the real position - across the board, in government, media and even the general public. This is "a place far away of which we know nothing." Though we can make a show of caring, to cover ourselves.

If the men and women the U.S. and Britain are holding are such bad people, guilty of anything to do with terrorism or the insurgency (Ba'th or Madi Army), it still ought to possible to make names of detainees publicly available and state what it is they are being held for. The sensible thing now would be to pressure the United States to give all the names, including those remaining at Guantanamo.

I am not against the Uniited States per say, just suspicious of governments in general. I want fairness and the rule of law at any price. It would seem appropriate for Americans to speak less about the wonderfulness of their society, as if they are selling a new, better shampoo, and "cast out the moat" in their own collective eye: be proud of the admirable aspects of their way of life but admit uneqivocally to the faults: poverty, prisons packed, etc. Therein lies the respect they feel they are due, are due, for being the world's protector and policeman.

further reading on R2I 

Sydney Morning Hearald Pentagon backed interrogations

Sydney Morning Hearald They did it for fun, not under orders: US investigator

USA Today letter from Dr. Ulla Sarmiento to Senator Edward Kennedy

The Dark Art of Interrogation by Mark Bowden  

Atlantic Monthly, October 2003

"The most effective way to gather intelligence and thwart terrorism can also be a direct route into morally repugnant terrain. A survey of the landscape of persuasion".

Powell's dilemma 

New York Times,

Airing of Powell's Misgivings Tests Ties in the Cabinet

Steven R. Weisman April 19, 2004

"Mr. Powell's memoir, "My American Journey," published in 1995 after he retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he had opposed a final push to oust Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Persian Gulf war on the ground that an occupation would provoke a counterinsurgency and criticism among Americans."

And of course there was a very large document produced by the State Department which the Defence Department threw in the bin.

They will have plenty of time to read it later to learn how to do deal with Iraq.

Abu Musab Zarqawi 

NBC News Jim Miklaszewski 2 March,2004

"..Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation." before war started.

Andrew Sullivan wrote a short piece recently saying he was Usamah (Osama) Bin laden, the cyber-Caliph's number 2. It has well accepted that position was held by the Egyptian Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. He has corrected himself but not acknowledged my email telling him. Such are the "A list" Bloggers! So it goes.

Linked to this Ayman al-Zawahiri before. It is is a fascinating article explaining th history of the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of Al Qaeda. The philospher of the Muslim Brotherhood,Al Qtub, is covered fully.

Zarqawi is Jordanian and considered to be acting as a freelance, though mixed up inAfghanistan in the early days. He is considered to behind the death of Berg.


Fox tape (edited)

shows quite clearly that U.S. Military intelligence was responsible for the section where abuse JPEGs were taken. They asked the prison guards to keep the prisoners on their toes using the methods we have seen in the photos.

The whole thing sniffs of desperation to get intelligence: it hints they haven't got anything worth using.

Intelligence.....a very inappropriate expression 

If I had been asked to find out who the trouble-makers were, I would not have arrested thousands of Iraqis and sundry others (without even knowing which was which) and applying a "grapeshot" method to infornmation gathering.

It would have been much easier and more fruitful to employ ex-Ba'ath intelligence officers - willingly or under duress - who have two advantages: they can speak arabic and know their own people. They probably have been used to some degree, covertly. The problem is can the intelligence they provide be believed? The set-up at Abu Ghraib is useless in obtaining useful information,

(a) because Arabic speakers are not doing the interrogation

(b) torture and humiliation never works

A model: Luftwaffe interrogation of WWII Allied airmen 

A fascinating example of how to get useful information in wartime is dessribed "The interrogator" by Raymond F. Toliver, based on the life of Hanns Scharff, the World War II master German interrogator who coaxed secrets from countless American pilots while barely raising his voice. His technique was so sublte he was able to collate simple things like plane numbers. He was able to discover how far USAAF fighter planes were able to fly in support of bombers from facts about the jettisoning of fuel pods.

Incidentally, another interrogator was Professor Bert Nagel, a literature professor before the war, who returned to that occupation following the war.


It makes me think the mass detentions in, Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq are not primarily to do with intelligence gathering. They are about terrorising the population. By "persuading" enough detainees the message gets through to the real trouble-makers not to tangle with the U.S. of A., and certainly not to join terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

Call me cynical, but there must be an element of truth in this idea. Nobody to this day knows who all the Guantanamo detainees are. The suspicion has slowly gathered that few Guantanamo detainees are guilty of terrorism, association with terrorist groups or the Taliban. Many sent back to Afghanistan are innocent peasants, unlucky enough to have been picked up off the street or field. A returnee I saw on TV many many months ago said he would like to visit America!

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memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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