Socialist Worker

Torture of Iraqi prisoners self-inflicted says US army general

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2007

An Iraqi is captured during a night raid. The military is now claiming that prisoners were harming themselves in order to “discredit the US army”

An Iraqi is captured during a night raid. The military is now claiming that prisoners were harming themselves in order to “discredit the US army”

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.

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Sat 1 Jul 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2007
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