A year of stonewalling a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Associated Press and now the Pentagon releases documents (Friday, March 3, 2006) with the names of hundreds of detainees held at Guantanamo.
The more than five thousand pages give us a flavor of the eclectic–ragtag, might be a better word–mix of prisoners in the Cuban camp and the equally varied treatment they received. The British Guardian– from a keen sense of fair play, one supposes–devotes a column to telling us that after all, yes, there were two young boys who actually had a good time of it– said good time running to movies, books, and soccer games. That wipes the slate clean on Abu Ghraib, see?
It would be interesting to know more about those two …. and about the many more boys who didn’t exactly get such Eagle Scout treatment, but what we’d really like to know is why we get a breathless column devoted to this reassuring anomaly but no one sees fit to give equal time to any of the three hundred other prisoners who testify to goings on a tad less pleasant.
The hitherto nameless three hundred turn into recognizable characters in these new documents. There are goat herds and shopkeepers; there is the Taliban cook carrying a radio and hand grenades, the Iraqi millionaire who worked for MI5–only they deny it–and the Afghan farmer clinging to his rifle and his frontier freedom like a Montana militiaman cornered by the Feds. There are the metals cages made from discarded shipping containers –six by six, exposed to sun and rain–in which the prisoners were caged 24/7 and let out, shackled, only to use the toilet. There were the regular and severe punishments doled out for infractions as senseless as having an extra cup in the cage. (1)
But–except for one–the most important characters in this squalid drama are a no-show in the press. And that exception–Major Geoffrey Miller–doesn’t get the star billing he deserves, either.
It was Miller who was behind the aggressive psychological tactics used at Gitmo between 2002 and 2004–where military interrogators posing as FBI agents, gift-wrapped suspects in the Israeli flag and forced others to watch homosexual porn under strobe lights in 18 hour interrogation sessions (Feb. 23, 2006).
It was Miller who overrode FBI warnings that information gathered by illegal techniques would be inadmissible in court.
It was also Miller who was sent from Cuba to Iraq to “Gitmoize” interrogation. It was only after Miller’s first visit to Abu Ghraib in August 2003 that the guards began siccing the dogs on prisoners, torturing them sexually, and attacking their religious beliefs. (2)
Here’s Jack Reed (D-RI) on the timeline:
“General Miller came to Iraq in August…He also recommended the establishment of a theater joint interrogation and detention center…That’s August, and then October we start seeing a series of abusive behaviors, which the accused [the military police and their commander, Janis Karpinski] suggest were a result of encouragement or direction from these intelligence people in this theater joint interrogation and detention center.” (3)
Even after the Abu Ghraib report broke and we were told piously by Mr. Rumsfeld that the system would be fixed ASAP, it was Miller who was sent back again to take care of things.
Doesn’t the man merit at least one fawning newspaper column for his original contributions to moral suasion? Or for his well-documented animus against Muslims?
Take Muslim prison chaplain, Capt. James “Yousef” Yee. In 2002 Miller accused Yee of espionage and detained him for 76 days in shackles and solitary confinement for the most part. When no evidence of guilt turned up, the charges were first reduced to mishandling classified information and lying to investigators, and then dropped completely, but instead of apologizing, Miller rapped Yee on tangential charges of adultery and possession of pornography–charges meant only to humiliate him and his family. They were also finally overturned. (4)
Who would put such a spiteful bigot in charge of interrogating Muslim prisoners?
The same folks, apparently, who picked General William “Jerry” Boykin to be Deputy Under Secretary for Defense in October 2003, precisely around the time the Abu Ghraib abuses were taking place.
What does Boykin, a militant evangelical Christian think of Muslims?
In dress uniform and polished jump boots, he told a religious group in Oregon in June that same year that radical Islamists hate the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan.”
Recounting a Special Ops mission against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, he informed another audience, “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”
In 2002, he stated, “We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this,” and at least once said of President Bush: “He’s in the White House because God put him there.” (5)
Add to this a resume studded with every rash Special Ops mission in recent memory–from the hunt for Columbian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, to the bungled Iran hostage rescue, and you get the picture of a man who likes death- or-glory escapades. Especially ones signed off on by Jehovah and aimed at Muslims.
In fact, a Crusader–and not a very competent one.
Is there any proof that Boykin had anything to do with Abu Ghraib?
Boykin played a key role in the counter-insurgency campaign that escalated from 2003 on and is known to have reviewed Israeli tactics used in the assault on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin in 2002. Any resemblance between American actions in Iraq and Israeli actions in Palestine is, of course, completely coincidental and not even remotely related to the question of why we might have a broad policy of detaining Muslims and subjecting them to futuristic forms of torture
Boykin was also one of the key planners of the new Special Forces group–Task Force 121- intended to wipe out the Iraqi resistance through targeted assassinations similar to the Phoenix Program in Vietnam.
Nice prep work for the man who also just happens to be the person responsible for briefing Undersecretary for Defense Stephen Cambone on what Miller was upto at Abu Ghraib. (6) Boykin is Cambone’s top aide.
Which brings us to Cambone. What did he know?
Nothing much, according to his testimony at the Senate Hearings.
On issue after issue, the man saw no evil and heard no evil:
“Until the pictures began appearing in the Press, sir, I had not sense of that scope or scale.” [about the torture photos which the Army began investigating in January, five months before the story broke]
And about the extent to which the CIA was involved in interrogations:
“I didn’t make a connection in the sense there was a significant issue here….Furthermore, I still don’t know that there is a significant issue here..”
Cambone also claimed not to have seen Red Cross reports or repeated complaints to Bremer and Rice in 2003. Nor was he briefed by General Miller on his August visit to Iraq.
The mantra is always the same–“I am not aware,” “as best I know,” “that’s about the extent of my knowledge.” (7)
And since we presume a minimum of intelligence in our defense officials, we can’t even chalk this up to imbecility.
Then why the stone-walling?
Simple. Military Intelligence and the CIA (both operating extensively through creme de la creme special forces units and out of control private contractors) are at the heart of the torture policy…. which is itself at the heart of the entire counter-terrorist strategy…. which is in turn the lynch pin of the war on terror. Counter terrorism today–from what we know of such units as Rumsfeld’s P2OG (Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group)–is modeled after the Gladio-type forces that ran the so-called “Strategy of Tension in Europe” in the aftermath of the Cold War and were used extensively to stage covert provocations and false-flag operations meant to discredit socialism.
So, trace Abu Ghraib back to MI and the CIA and Cambone knows you trace right it back to the people running the new Strategy of Tension….against the Muslim world. The people who have reframed real (and staged) terrorist acts as part of an endless World War IV — while, not incidentally, standing to profit substantially from the reframing. You trace it back to defense contractors. You trace it back to the black heart of the Defense-Intelligence octopus.
And where does Cambone fit in the octopus?
As Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD-I), the civilian boss directly in charge of the entire system of information gathering, he’s part of the brain. A big part. The position was created by Rumsfeld as recently as 2003 for the sole purpose of wrenching control of intelligence away from independent outfits (the DIA, the NSA, each armed service’s intelligence unit) and housing it in the Pentagon under one roof.
Moreover, Cambone, a ballistics missile and space weapons fanatic, had no background in intelligence and was hated by those who did. He was Rumsfeld’s point man on RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs)–the Don’s controversial transformation of the military. He was picked to steam roll any opposition by military men–and there was plenty of opposition. (8)
As part of the RMA, raw (unanalyzed) intelligence is made available to the military–supposedly with rules governing its use….but who really believes that rules like that don’t quickly fold when needed? The intelligence is gathered through “persistent surveillance” and uses such new technologies as Space-Based Radar. Turns out “persistent surveillance” is suspiciously similar to what goes on under Rumsfeld’s little false-flag franchise, P20G. Indeed, in April 2003, Rumsfeld placed Cambone in charge of the counter-terrorism initiative coded “Grey Fox.” Here are Cambone’s own words with my emphasis in italics:
“For the war fighter, it [Space-Based Radar] could support predictive battlespace awareness and could be equally predictive for the intelligence analyst. In other words, by finding the anomalous event, what you do is you get out ahead of activities. Your refresh rate, if you will, is such that you’re not looking at history, you’re looking at current events, and once you start looking at current events, as opposed to the history, your ability to start drawing those trend lines and anticipate how the subject of your inquiry is going to act and respond increases dramatically.” (9)
Preemptive intelligence, like preemptive war. Pick up people who might commit terrorist acts, not those who actually have. A perfect recipe for show trials and random street sweeps like the ones that gave us Abu Ghraib. And completely contradictory to the practice or theory of professional intelligence analysts. But, of course, Cambone, a graduate of the neo-conservative hotbed Claremont College, is not an analyst but an ideologue.
An ideologue, who as USD-I gets his clammy hands on 85% of the intelligence budget versus the mere 12% under the director of central intelligence. Frankly, Cambone would had to have been consulted just for the money needed to insert private contractors and military intelligence into interrogation.
Yet, at the Senate Hearings this all powerful czar swore up and down he knew nothing–nada, zip, zero, zilch–about Miller, about the Red Cross, about MI, about the dogs, about the pictures…..
And a hypnotized media has never called him on that outrageous performance.
Nor has there been a solitary twitter about the role of the enigmatic Douglas Feith, though he deserves it as much as Cambone. Until he left in early 2005, Feith was Cambone’s opposite number at Defense as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P), a post Cambone himself held earlier.
If Cambone had the means to tamper with intelligence-gathering and interrogation, Feith had the motive.
A vocal advocate of regime change in the Middle East long before 9-11, a hard-line Zionist hawk and member of ZOA (Zionist Organization of America), Feith’s publicly expressed views are incendiary. He has stated that Oslo should be repudiated and the West Bank and Gaza reoccupied even if “the price in blood would be high” as “a necessary form of detoxification.” (10)
And his actions in government match. In 1982, he was investigated over allegations that he had handed over secret documents to the Israeli embassy and left the National Security Council under a cloud. Later, he was hired back by Richard Perle. On leaving the Pentagon in 1986, he promptly started a law firm in Israel. His partner at the time, Marc Zell, is a spokesman for the Jewish settlers’ movement on the occupied West Bank. Yes–those settlers. (11) The ones several parasangs to the right of Ariel Sharon. Naturally–that would have nothing whatsoever to do with any opinions Feith might hold on Arabs, Iraq, or the proper way to chat with a manacled Muslim.
In 2001, with the US economy in recession and financial crisis looming in the markets and neo-conservatives ensconced in power, friends began helping friends: Wolfowitz as Deputy Secretary of State brought Feith in at DOD, while Feith brought Perle to the Defense Policy Board and hired another favorite ideological hit man, Michael Ledeen, who also has a documented history of siphoning classified information to Israeli intelligence and selling sensitive military technology to China. Ledeen was hired by Feith at OSP to handle material requiring high-level security clearance. (12)
And what does this cozy arrangement have to do with Abu Ghraib? Well–for a start, it blows a hole in the theory that rounding up a few Semitic goat-herds and housewives has anything to do with national security–at least in the common meaning of that term, to wit., refraining from selling out the interests of the nation-state to which one belongs by accident of birth, choice, or lack of initiative. Because it’s quite clear from the action-packed resumes of the crew of transnational wheelers and dealers above, that national–or even international- security is the last thing on their minds.
Feith has also been up to more institutionalized shenanigans:
First, he was active in the controversial Defense Policy Board, whose former head Richard Perle resigned when conflicts of interest between his board duties and his business affairs came to light. Then, he was also boss at the Office of Special Plans, which “stove-piped” un-vetted or raw intelligence on Iraq directly (outside the normal channels, that is) to the White House. The objective was to buttress the administration’s flimsy case for war. Which means that Feith was grasping for any wisp of straw when it came to intelligence. And so, had every incentive to get it for us whole-sale where he could most easily–on the Iraqi street. (13)
And an important point. OSP, set up by Wolfowitz, had direct responsibility for detainee operations in Iraq. By dismissing the advice of Middle Eastern experts at the State Department on post-war planning, it contributed hugely to the failure of prison policy. OSP also oversaw reconstruction contracts–with all their outrageous bid-rigging and profiteering. And it did all of this through an institutional end-run around government.
Yet, at the Senate Hearings, Cambone swore up and down that Feith was in the dark about Abu Ghraib and the Taguba report, although when the report actually came out, here’s what Daniel Dunn, the top computer security officer in Feith’s office had to say in an urgent email memo to Pentagon staff:
“Information contained in this report is classified; do not go to FOX News to read or obtain a copy.” (14)
Sounds like at least one person knew that Feith had something to fear.
And Feith himself quietly resigned last year, some say, because of yet another scandal–the Larry Franklin case. Franklin, convicted of espionage this year, worked for Feith at OSP in 2002 and 2003 and was sent abroad on sensitive missions–involving Iran-Contra figures– aimed at pushing through the Iraq WMD hustle. Franklin pleaded guilty in January to passing information to Israel about U.S. policy towards Iran through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the foremost pro-Israel lobbying organization in the U.S. (15)
So there you have it.
Take two rancid Christian zealots and a half-pint of frothing Zionist fanaticism. Add to it a well-curdled neo-conservative ideologue and stir until bubbling in a Middle Eastern cauldron. Top with a generous helping of psycho-sexual sadism. And voila, Torture Imperial. Serves several thousands at a time.
Miller, Boykin, Cambone, and Feith.
Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld also, of course. Possibly, Rice and President Bush.
But for now, these four will do.
LILA RAJIVA is a free-lance journalist and author of “The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American media,” (Monthly Review Press). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) “In Guantanamo Bay Documents, Prisoners Plead for Release
U.S. Makes First Public Accounting Of Detainees,” Josh White and Julie Tate, Washington Post, March 5, 2006; Page A08. See also “Pentagon discloses names of Gitmo detainees,” Miranda Leitsinger and Ben Fox, AP, March 4, 2006.
(2) See “The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media,” LILA RAJIVA, MR Press, December 2005, p. 51.
(3) Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, May 11, 2004.
(4) “How Dubious Evidence Spurred Relentless Guantánamo Spy Hunt,” Tim Golden, New York Times, December 19, 2004. See also “Who Is Geoffrey Miller: Is the Man from Guantánamo the Right Man for Iraq?” Peter Ogden, Center for American Progress, May 17, 2004.
(5) “General Casts War in Religious Terms,” Richard T. Cooper, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2003.
(6) “Moving Targets: Will the counter-insurgency plan in Iraq repeat the mistakes of Vietnam?” Seymour Hersh, New Yorker, December 13, 2003. See also “US Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq,” Julian Borger, Guardian, 9 December 2003.
(7) Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, May 11, 2004.
(8) In “The Secret World of Stephen Cambone: Rumsfeld’s Enforcer,” (Counterpunch, February 7, 2006), Jeffrey St. Clair writes that a Republican staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CounterPunch that the little-known Cambone rivals Paul Wolfowitz in power at the Pentagon. “Cambone is a truly dangerous player,” said the staffer.” He is Rumsfeld’s guard dog, implacably loyal. While Wolfowitz positions himself to step into the top spot should Rumsfeld get axed, Cambone has dug in and gone to war against the insurgents in the Pentagon. Cambone’s fingerprints are all over the occupation and the interrogation scandal. For him, there’s no turning back.” St. Clair contends credibly that “Cambone’s real mission was to keep tabs on Feith, a notorious hothead and Cheney loyalist whom Rumsfeld distrusts.”
(9) “Intelligence on demand: An interview with Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence,” Glenn W. Goodman, Jr., ISR Journal, December 1, 2003.
(10) “A Dangerous Appointment,” James Zogby, Washington Watch, April 16, 2001
(11) “Loss of Feith in Douglas,” Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, November 7, 2003. (Reprinted in Asia Times).
(12) “Serving Two Flags: Neo-Cons, Israel and the Bush Administration,” Stephen Green, Counterpunch, February 28/29, 2004. Again, one has to clearly distinguish between acceptable information sharing between two very close allies and the fine point at which something crosses that boundary.
(13) “The new Pentagon papers: A high-ranking military officer reveals how Defense Department extremists suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war,” Karen Kwiatkowski, Salon.com, March 10, 2004.
(14) “The Israeli Torture Template: Rape, Feces and Urine-Dipped Cloth Sacks,”
Wayne Madsen, Counterpunch, May 10, 2004.
(15) “Pentagon analyst indicted for leaks to Israel: a subterranean power struggle in Washington,” Patrick Martin, World Socialist Web, 10 May 2005.