The al-Dubya Training Manual

“It is important to note that al Qaeda training manuals emphasize the tactic of making false abuse allegations.”

This is now the official and frequent response of White House, Pentagon, and State Department spokespersons when confronted with charges of American “abuse” (read: torture) of prisoners, and is being repeated by many supporters of the war scattered around the Internet.

It can thus be noted that White House, Pentagon, and State Department training manuals emphasize the tactic of saying “It is important to note that al Qaeda training manuals emphasize the tactic of making false abuse allegations,” when confronted with charges of American torture of prisoners for which the spokespersons have no other defense.

It is equally important to note that these sundry spokespersons never actually offer a precise quotation from any terrorist training manuals, of al Qaeda or not. The one instance I’ve been able to find of US government officials referring to a specific terrorist training manual in the context of torture, is a referral to the so-called “Manchester Manual”, a manual found on the computer of a suspected terrorist in Manchester, England in 2000.{1} In the references to torture, in the portions of the manual that have been made public, there is certainly no clear, unambiguous directive for making false allegations of abuse, much less an emphasis on such. The manual, apparently written in the 1980s, says the following about torture: “Each brother who is subjected to interrogation and torture, should state all that he agreed upon with the commander and not deviate from it.” … “Security personnel in our countries arrest brothers and obtain the needed information through interrogation and torture.”

In Lesson 18, explicitly cited by the US government officials, we find: “1.At the beginning of the trial, once more the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security [investigators] before the judge. 2.Complain [to the court] of mistreatment while in prison. 3. Make arrangements for the brother’s defense with the attorney, whether he was retained by the brother’s family or court-appointed. 4.The brother has to do his best to know the names of the state security officers, who participated in his torture and mention their names to the judge. [These names may be obtained from brothers who had to deal with those officers in previous cases.]

All words in brackets were bracketed in the original; some may be translator’s comments.

Inasmuch as only selected portions of the manual have been made public by the Bush and Blair administrations it can not be determined in what way the deleted sections might put the White House/Pentagon/State mantra into question. For example, in lesson 18, part 1, what does “once more” refer to? Some previous relevant passage which is being withheld from the public? And how does “proving that torture was inflicted on them” square with “the tactic of making false abuse allegations”? Part 2 could be taken to mean something made up, but it doesn’t mention torture and probably doesn’t refer to it because part 1 would seem to cover that particular complaint.

In any event, the question is largely academic. We have the numerous statements of American prison guards, other military personnel, and Pentagon officials, all admitting to dozens of kinds of “abuse” in US prisons in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan; so many ugly stories. We have as well the Abu Ghraib photos. And we have the well-documented phenomenon of CIA “rendition”, flying kidnapped individuals to many countries known for their routine use of torture. None of this comes from al Qaeda training manuals.

We’re winning, sort of

Their policies have not changed yet, but they’re becoming more and more defensive with each passing day. After numerous, unflinching refusals to announce a date of departure from Iraq — in the face of a rising demand in and out of Congress — several administration officials, both civilian and military, have recently been giving estimated dates, albeit what they say is total rubbish, no more than an attempt to tell the critics to shut up.

They’re also circling the wagons in the face of mounting charges that terrorism, particularly of the anti-US and anti-UK type, is the logical consequence of US and UK foreign policy. Former State Department spokesman James Rubin and New York Times foreign-affairs correspondent Thomas Friedman recently declared that we need to spotlight the “excuse makers.” “After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed.”{2} (I wonder, if the terrorists get life in prison, whether Rubin and Friedman would be willing to settle for as little as 20 years for us excuse makers, or would they fear being accused of being “soft on excuse makers”?)

Friedman and Rubin do not actually dispute the idea that the human catastrophe known as Iraq lies behind certain terrorist acts, and most Americans and British make that association as well, which I chalk up as another point for the anti-war movement.

Tony Blair sounds positively frantic in his denials that the bombers were motivated in any way by British support of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He and Bush simply can not admit any cause and effect between their war-crime adventures and terrorism. To do so would mean having to change their policies.

But reality keeps intruding. Here’s one of the would-be London bombers, Osman Hussain (also known as Isaac Hamdi), whose bomb failed to fully detonate on July 21, speaking in Rome after his capture there: Osman spoke of “how the suspects watched hours of TV footage showing grief-stricken Iraqi widows and children alongside images of civilians killed in the conflict. He is alleged to have told prosecutors that after watching the footage: ‘There was a feeling of hatred and a conviction that it was necessary to give a signal – to do something.’ … Osman allegedly said: ‘More than praying we discussed work, politics, the war in Iraq … we always had new films of the war in Iraq … more than anything else those in which you could see Iraqi women and children who had been killed by US and UK soldiers’.”{3} “The bombs of July 7 in London?” said Hamdi, “That happens every day in Iraq.”{4}

So concerned about such condemnations of US foreign policy is Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld that he was moved to write an op-ed in the Financial Times of London after the attacks in that city. He first treated his readers to a message that could have been pasted together from words cut out of a magazine: “Coalition forces operate in Afghanistan and Iraq at the request of democratically elected governments.” Hmmm, I see, nothing to do with massive bombing, invasion or occupation; it was all a spontaneous invitation with flowers and kisses; as if Rumsfeld thinks no one knows any recent history at all. And then, as if he thinks no one knows any prior history either, he declared:

“Some seem to believe that accommodating extremists’ demands — including retreating from Afghanistan and Iraq — might put an end to their grievances, and, with them, future attacks. But consider that when terrorists struck America on September 11 2001, a radical Islamist government ruled Afghanistan and harboured al-Qaeda leaders, virtually undisturbed by the international community. And Saddam Hussein tightly clung to power in Iraq, and appeared to be winning support for his efforts to end United Nations sanctions.”{5}

But prior to September 11 there was already a long list of grievances against American actions, enough to fuel a dozen al Qaedas:

* the shooting down of two Libyan planes in 1981

* the bombardment of Beirut in 1983 and 1984

* the bombing of Libya in 1986

* the bombing and sinking of an Iranian ship in 1987

* the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988

* the shooting down of two more Libyan planes in 1989

* the massive bombing of the Iraqi people in 1991

* the continuing bombings and terrible sanctions against Iraq for the next 12 years

* the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998

* the habitual support of Israel despite the routine devastation and torture it inflicts upon the Palestinian people

* the habitual condemnation of Palestinian resistance to this

* the large military and hi-tech presence in Islam’s holiest land, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region

* the long-term support of undemocratic, authoritarian Middle Eastern governments, from the Shah of Iran to the Saudis


The newest charming chapter of the War on Terror

The cold-blooded murder of the 27-year-old Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, by London police may become a symbol for the War on Terror along with others like the hooded and wired man of Abu Ghraib. It appears now that the police lied about Menezes wearing a bulky jacket, running from them, jumping over the subway turnstile, and being “directly linked” to the bomb investigation. But even if all of that were true, what would be the justification for his execution? That he might have been a suicide bomber just about to explode himself in a crowded subway station? But if that were true, why — when the police were getting closer to him, then closer, then on top of him — why didn’t he set the explosives off? Should not the absence of any explosion have instantly told the police that they were dreadfully mistaken?

Collateral damage

On July 13, more than 40 Iraqi children were killed or wounded by a suicide car bomber targeting an American soldier who was handing out sweets to the children. This awful event understandably led to numerous condemnations of the insurgency, with no extenuating circumstances allowed into the discussion. Yet, on many occasions in recent years, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia, when US bombing has killed a number of innocent civilians, American officials have said that “the bad guys” were at least partly to blame because they had set themselves up close to civilians despite knowing that they might well be the targets of US attacks. Can not the same reasoning apply to the incident of July 13? Did not the American soldier know that standing in an Iraqi street made him a probable target of the insurgents? Why did he allow himself to be so close to so many children?

The sanctity of elections

In July it was reported that the US Navy secretly spent $1.6 million to influence the vote in Vieques, Puerto Rico in a 2001 referendum on the question of continued Navy use of the area as a bombing range. Opponents had contended that the bombing harmed the environment and the health of Vieques’ 9,100 residents.{6}

That same month we learned that Washington also poured money into the much vaunted Iraqi elections of January, giving financial support to the slate controlled by Iyad Allawi, the acting Prime Minister, who was a staunch American ally.{7}

We thus have two more additions to the list of elections around the world which the United States has seriously interfered in. By my conservative tabulation, since 1950 it comes to about 35 elections in 30 different countries, not counting presidential elections in the United States.{8}

“Mr. Castro, once, just once, show that you’re unafraid of a real election.” — George W. Bush, 2002{9}

Che Clinton?

If Hillary Clinton is indeed eyeing the White House, we can expect a lot more of the kind of silliness of the intellect found in Edward Klein’s new book, “The Truth About Hillary”. Critics pan the book for its sleaziness. I pan it for its striking inability to distinguish among different points on the political spectrum. Clinton, in Klein’s world, is a “leftist”, not the centrist she and her husband have plainly proven themselves to be. Klein sees her not as simply a liberal, but a “leftist”; in fact, not simply a leftist, but a “radical” leftist. Yes, that’s the word he uses. He’s speaking about a woman who supported the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s, while her husband was in the Arkansas governor’s mansion. The Contras, in case you’ve forgotten, were the army employed by Ronald Reagan in his all-out war to destroy the progressive social and economic programs of the Nicaraguan government. They went around burning down schools and medical clinics, raping, torturing, mining harbors, bombing and strafing. These were the charming gentlemen Reagan liked to call “freedom fighters”.

Roger Morris, in his excellent study of the Clintons, “Partners in Power”, recounts Hillary Clinton aiding Contra fund-raising and her lobbying against people or programs hostile to the Contras or to the Reagan-CIA policies in general. “As late as 1987-88,” Morris writes, “amid some of the worst of the Iran-Contra revelations, colleagues heard her still opposing church groups and others devoted to social reform in Nicaragua and El Salvador.”{10}

Are Clinton’s views on Iraq or US imperialism in general any more progressive than this? If she is a radical leftist what would Edward Klein — who makes no mention at all of the Contras — call Noam Chomsky? What would he call Fidel Castro? Or Vladimir Lenin? This kind of ideological dumbness just permeates the American media and plays no small part in the voters losing their bearings.

WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at:



{1} Federal News Service, July 21, 2005, State Department briefing. The manual is at

{2} New York Times, July 22, 2005

{3} The Observer (London), July 31, 2005

{4} Agence France Presse, July 31, 2005

{5} Financial Times (London), August 1, 2005

{6} Associated Press, July 22, 2005

{7} Seymour Hersh, New Yorker, July 25, 2005

{8} The latest listing can be found in the updated edition of WILLIAM BLUM’s book, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower”, chapter 18, which will be out around October.

{9} Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2002

{10} Roger Morris, “Partners in Power” (1996), p.415



WILLIAM BLUM is the author of:

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2

Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower

West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir

Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

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William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He can be reached at: