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New orders in Abu Ghraib, Baghdad

The American Army Manuals of Torture

Torture has always been a practice widely used by the United States and many countries of the world; a history that does not end in Iraq.

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Abu Ghraib Prison, Baghdad, Iraq
Military intelligence officers forcing civilian prisoners to adopt humiliating positions to take some pictures aimed at intimidating other prisoners.

The almost unanimous condemnation by the American congressmen of the terrible tortures and mistreatments in Abu Ghraib detention center in Baghdad after the CBS (United States) publication of the photos taken in such a center should not be a reason to minimize such practices or to believe they were invented after September 11 attacks, not to mention the operations in Afghanistan led by the very same Afghan people at the end of year 2001, or the defeat of the Iraqi army in March 2003.

Considering the absence of an official and conventional conflict that implies a direct confrontation between two states, the war that Washington sought and got in Iraq has gone beyond all limits of the legal framework established by the Geneva Convention. The war has been launched based on the excuse of a state defense secret. No matter what the authorities of the Bush Administration do, this will never be a real war; this has never looked like a real conflict which has only existed in the official rhetoric and demagogy of the American leaders. It is not about solving a political conflict through the confrontation of two armies; this a colonial conquest aimed at controlling the civil populations and the natural resources. Then, why pretending astonishment when considering the scientifically prepared and adapted images aimed at psychologically contain the real or possible adversary?

Why launching the war against civilians subject to the Shock and Awe [1] until stultification aimed at terrifying these populations through torture until they have no choice but resignation?

In this sense, we have to acknowledge George Soros’ lucidity when in a recent article [2] he said what has shocked the Americans have been the pictures and not the “torture” as such. In an informal interview, Soros has spoken of his experience with Wall Street investors who reached a consensus to implement some measures to fight terrorism: they were mostly in favor of torture but they did not want people to know it.

How can we explain then the different reactions that have arisen in the debate regarding the reestablishment of torture, a fact that has fascinated American lawyers and politicians since the end of year 2002? And how to explain their reaction to the pictures that showed abominable acts though ordered from above? All these can be explained if we accept the idea that such images can lead the public opinion.

We were prudently talking about the “reestablishment of torture” but thanks to the existence of casually recovered and preserved American documents we can see that since the beginning of the 60s such manuals taught tortures and were widely spread in Latin America, specially when counter-insurgence operations or operations against guerrilla groups were carried out in the said continent.

Documents that supported the use of torture in Latin America has also been declassified in the last few years and they show that the allegedly “mistakes”, “outrages” and “beatings” criticized by the U.S. general staff to “wash its hands” is nothing but a vile carefully-studied-planned-and-applied tactic hidden from the press. Tortures have always been one of the best and indissoluble constants of its military and political strategy.

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Torture Manual, CIA, 1963
Torture Manual, CIA, 1963 (see the complementary documents at the end of the article to download them)

The emergence of the guerrilla revolutionary movements at the beginning of the 60s, the increasing intensity of the Viet Nam war and the first Marxist resistance centers in South America encouraged John Kennedy advisers to design some counter-insurgence methods. They also thought of developing a group of military, political and economic measures to overcome the Third World National Liberation Movements.

Special units like the Green Berets of the army, the marine SEAL (Sea-Air-Land Commands) and air force special task forces were famous in many countries such as Honduras, Indonesia, Thailand or Filipinas for destroying the economic and political independence plans or many social or revolutionary movements.

In year 1963, the first Counterintelligence Interrogation manual was written. It was titled KUBARK. KUBARK was the CIA’s codename to identify this project. The manual was a detailed guide of different methods to be used in order to obtain information or effectively force the “elements of the resistance” to talk. The manual explained the steps to “become a perfect torturer” and quickly get the necessary categories to be a good “interrogator” explaining in detail the coercive techniques to achieve the goals.

Many practical recommendations were also included; among them: «the torturer must be familiarized with the electric current so that he could use the electric transformers and other available conversion devises if needed». It was also suggested the prisoner had to remain standing and deprived of sleeping and of his visual or tactic sensations for a long time with the purpose of overcoming his will.

The manual also explained that if such «ideal» conditions were met, the interrogated developed the feeling of inflicting himself the bad treatments. It indicated too that a barrel full of water or an “artificial lung” were even more effective. In the first pages or the introduction of the manual, torturers were advised “not to be mistakenly considered a person authorized to use such coercive techniques” and “not to forget to find a discreet or secret place where such practices could be implemented”.

Collected excerpts of this manual and of other manuals later recovered by the military espionage during the 60s, known as “Project X” were mixed to write a second “Bible” of the perfect torturer which was titled Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual -1993. The new manuals were largely used again in South America from 1983 to 1987.

This manual taught techniques similar to the ones that have been observed in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The original version stated: «We will only talk about two kinds of techniques: coercive and non-coercive. We do not want to make emphasis on the use of the coercive techniques. We just want you to know them». This last phrase was written to prevent the users of such manual to be accused in case of being discovered.

Later, the Senate of the United States carried out an investigation on the violations of the human rights in Honduras perpetrated by the death squads in 1988 and a paragraph of the torture manual was modified the following way: «yes, we oppose the use of coercive techniques. We just want you to be informed about them so that you can be warned and avoid their use». The manual also warned that «a frequent use of torture demeans the morale of the organization that implement it and corrupt those who depend on ...».

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Torture Manual, CIA, 1983
A Widely Used Document in Latin America between 1983 and 1987 as a Reference Manual of the CIA instructors and the Green Berets. See the attached documents at the end of the article.

Since year 1966, the famous manuals were a priority in the School of the Americas, headquartered in Panama, later located in Fort Benning (Georgia, U.S.). Another part of the school was transferred to the Political Warfare Academy headquartered in Taiwan (nationalist China). For ten years, the interrogation techniques were taught by South American and Asian military men which were the ones in charge of doing the counter-insurgency dirty work. In 1976, this kind of training was prohibited once an American parliamentarian commission knew about such practices.

In fact, President Carter’s government confirmed such prohibition but the Reagan Administration validated it again reactivating the torture courses of the School of the Americas. For that purpose, a new “changed” edition of the 1983 manual was printed though torturers preferred to use the 1963 old version for it was much more explicit.

By doing this, Reagan’s team tried to be updated: by confirming its will to fight the “pro-Castro” regimes in Central America it did not hesitate for a second to state, through its Secretary of State Alexander Haig, that “international terrorism” -the expression used by the Reagan Administration to identify the revolutionary uprisings and insurrections- “will replace Human Rights as our main worry”. [3].

The translation and massive diffusion of these manuals in South America by the military forces which applied the American doctrine against local counter-insurgencies called the Pentagon’s attention in such a way that in 1992 it made a secret report titled “The Spanish-language Intelligence Training Manuals” which was submitted to Dick Cheney (current vice-president of the United States) then Secretary of Defense of President George H. Bush (father). The report indicated how worried they were regarding “the criminal and doubtful elements included in such manuals”, a fact that could damage the allegedly image of virtue the Southern Command, that is, to promote the respect of Human Rights, at least on paper.

The threat was that the manuals constituted de facto a direct evidence of their wrongdoings and “could damage the image and credibility of the United States which, in addition, could be seriously compromised” by any human rights organization.

Months before, an investigation carried out by the Department of Defense had been interested in the seven problematic manuals that were chaotically spread compromising them in multiple cases which included abuses, blows, abusive imprisonments, executions and serum injections since the 60s. Dick Cheney’s order was to locate, find and destroy all these manuals. The order was executed as part of a “joint correction operation”. By that time, his implemented counter-insurgency program had already proved its effectiveness by subjugating great part of South America, and eliminating many revolutionary movements.

All this was nothing but a useful attempt to hide the evidences of a disastrous plan, previously studied. [4].

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Iraqi prisoner subject to electric tortures in Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq. (See the pictures of the Iraqi prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib, down, at the end of the article)

In his State of Union address (United States) in year 2003, the current American president George W. Bush said about Saddam Hussein’s regimen: «electrical charges, marks made with hot iron, acid split on the skin, mutilation made through electric drill, tongues pull out and violations. If this is not evil, then this word has no meaning...» [5]

The hidden debate from indiscreet cameras begun at the end of year 2002, and it was only an attempt to accept or demean widely used practices. All this was done by taking advantage of the emotion caused by September 11 attacks, very alive by that time. But this emotion has been slowly disappearing while the number of victims of the “war against terror” has increased so much that there are more victims now than after September 11.

Later, the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (the allegedly right hand of Bin Laden) at the beginning of year 2003, caused a polemic on the legalization of torture and not on the use of torture for it was a common thing in the operations against counter insurgent revolutionaries. The fact of taking prisoners to be tortured in countries where torture was commonly used, for instance, Egypt or Morocco, was already a reality when this news and controversy were published in some diaries.

For example, this is the case of Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, by that time a CIA suspect of being linked to shoe bomber Richard Reid Iqbal Madni, and secretly taken from Indonesia to Egypt by the American services to be brutally interrogated. [6].

It must be said too that the colonial past in Algeria and France repression in its former colony to subjugate it at the end of the 50s and the beginnings of the 60s so that it could not become independent, called the attention of the Pentagon before the conquest of Iraq in 2003.

This colonial French past easily proved that once the ethic limit for the use of torture is passed, the permanent confrontation is a guaranteed fact. Torture becomes then «the shortest way» to get to the said situation. Maybe this is the reason why the Abu Ghraib revelations have become so famous: it was necessary to put an end once and for all to this permanent confrontation before the situation becomes abominable or uncontrollable, as if the whole things was a time bomb that nobody knows when will blow, as professor David Cole explained to The Nation in March 2003. [7]

Another counter productive element once you reach to uncontrollable situations like the Iraqi chaos caused by the invasion is that uncertainty linked to the threat favors the practice of torture because in moments of doubt and insecurity it can be used in all circumstances with no impunity at all. The French experience in Algeria was reproduced in Israel long before the Israeli Supreme Court legally prohibit it, at least on paper, in 1999: «Very soon, and in rare occasions, torture was a common practice in Israel mainly due to the metaphoric example of the ‘time bomb’ for such concept used by the oppressor becomes a justification of his actions, despite the fact that they can postpone or prolong (manipulate it) as they wish and for their ‘good conciseness», explained too Phil Roth to The Nation.

But before considering torture a method to obtain information, isn’t torture the incarnation and pure essence of state terrorism? Who would dare to say the Iraqi population is not terrified by the idea of being in the hands of torturers in Abu Ghraib prison?

We know that today the United States persistently demands a Resolution of the UN Security Council to be renewed so that its military men won’t be judged at the International Court of Justice. [8]. So, the U.S. has a double strategy: on one hand it is carrying out a judicial battle of attrition letting first the High Command to be the responsible and in the worst of the cases it will “burn” some low-ranking officers but the executive direction will be protected. All this is planned to avoid justice. The only thing it has to do later is affirming torture was not used neither by them or its mercenaries or vassal countries. They will also say there are no CIA secret interrogation centers.

The 1983 manual was specially written to spread torture in Central America. All methods were good to prevent civil populations from supporting communists. On the ground, operations were directed by John Negroponte. It is due to his “experience” in such matters that George W. Bush has appointed him ambassador of the United States to Baghdad from July 1, 2004 not to put an end to torture.

Attached documents

 
 
 
 
 

[1] Shock and Awe suggests the methods to bomb civil populations, a tactic first used by the powers of the Axis (Germany before WWII), in Guernica (Spain), theorized by Harlan K. Ullman.

[2] George Soros: “Victims turning perpetrators”, Alternet, May 19, 2004.

[3] Michael T. Klare: “The strong America” faces the Third World, a new counter-insurgence doctrine», Le Monde Diplomatique, April 1981

[4] In Law, when torture is practiced by orders and as part of an elaborate plan it may be considered a crime against humanity and not as war crime

[5] The State of the Union Address of January 28, 2003, is available in section «Diplomatic Affairs» (in English and search the document in the French section)

[6] Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Peter Finn: “U.S. Behind Secret Transfer of Terror Suspects”, The Washington Post, March 11, 2002.

[7] Eyal Press: “In Torture we Trust?”, The Nation, March 31, 2003.

[8] Bush Negotiates Future Impunity for American Soldiers, International Federation of Human Rights, May 24, 2004

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