US: a rogue that refuses to relent (and reform) - ii
In chapter 4 the author narrates, “the Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram; the most despicable and dehumanised detention centres… They (victims) are subjected to the most brutal techniques of interrogation… Geneva conventions have been tossed aside and declared inapplicable” (p109) under the plea that they were not pows but enemy combatants. The detainees included several juveniles.
Since Islam was the target, Bush administration did its utmost to hurt the religious feelings of the detainees which it failed to accomplish. “… their devotion was impressive” (p114) Even sexual allurement by women interrogators by resorting to vulgar tactics failed to break their faith. “Instead it did just the opposite (p114). Doctors forgot their medical ethics in assisting the interrogators. (This is what a lady doctor in NIMHANS, in Bangalore has been doing against SIMI detainees). Prisoners were forced to undertake hunger strikes several times. They were forcibly fed now and then. It was later on realised that while most cases of mistaken identities were also identified (p118, 119). Al-Qahtani (detainee 067) was mistaken to be the twentieth missing pilot involved in Twin Towers attack who had long been absconding. It demonstrates the stupidity of American forces (p120)
Anti-Islam tirade took the ugliest turn in the desecration of the Qur’an which was spat on, kicked and even flushed in the toilet. It was inscribed on it. This made the world aghast and attracted world wide condemnation. Anti-American demonstrations in different parts of the world became violent and resulting in a few deaths. Four persons died and sixty were injured when police resorted to firing.
While Guantanamo Bay was on a distant soil from Afghanistan; Bagram was on Afghan soil and was in no way better than the foreign centre. It also claimed its own toll of victims – Habibullah and Dilawar two innocent persons. (p137, 139) Dilawar’s shrill cry in agony calling “Allah” on every kick provided them fun and they continued kicking him for eliciting Allah (137) for which he received 100 kicks within 24 hours. Two insurgents were killed and their bodies were burnt (p.140). This was done deliberately to hurt Muslim sentiments. Even a docile and submissive President Hamid Karzai vehemently protested against this brutal burning (p141)
On April 28, 2004, CBS News broadcasted the ugly photographs of abuses by American soldiers at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prisonThe images aroused worldwide indignation. Former Vice President, Al Gore, described them the as “American Gulag” (p. 142). Harsh techniques from Guantanamo Bay and Bagram were used in Abu Ghuraib. General Miller arrived in Abu Ghraib to “Gitmoize” the centre (p 142). The U.S. forces toppled Saddam, but used his prison to outdo Saddam in the art of torturing (p144). Taguba’s 53-page report, classified as “Secret” confesses, “U.S. soldiers had committed ‘egregious act and grave breaches of international law’ (p145). Among the techniques, a few were:
- Punching, slapping and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet
- Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees
- Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing
- Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate while being photographed and videotaped
- Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them
- Pouring cold water on naked detainees (p. 146)
Describing these as indelible stains on the honour of American military Philop Carter, holds, “America suffered a huge defeat” (p14). The acts have helped to energise insurgency in Iraq. Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican Foreign Minister, remarked: “The tortured are a more serious blow to the United States than September 11 (attacks) except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans themselves”. (p. 150). Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist (73) took the explosive topic, the torture of Iraqi prisoners as a major subject for his painting – 48 paintings and sketches exhibited in Rome (p152)“The humiliating treatment of prisoners in all the detention centres under American control …. has fuelled insurgency and has served as a powerful magnet to attract insurgents from all across the Islamic realm. A U.S. commander in Iraq admitted that Abu Ghraib is a graduate level training ground for insurgency (p 153). Guantanamo Bay stands as a “legal monster.” (p155) V
Divided in two parts chapter V is the lengthiest one covering 131 pages. It is a record of horrible deaths and violence. In the beginning, the author describes how stiff resistance from insurgents broke the backbone of all operations undertaken by the coalition forces. Both Sunnis and Shias joined hands to give the Americans a bloody nose. “There is a limit to what armour and technology can do against a people with faith, who fight because they feel their country has been violated (p. 159)
Removing Saddam and toppling his statue was easy but changing chaos into order was a stupendous task (p 160) Ahmad Chalabi who dreamt of being Saddam’s successor felt deceived and got enraged. He manipulated matters with Dick Cheney and got Garner substituted by Paul Bremer III as governor. He proved to be a disaster – Americans lost the goodwill of Iraqis. Not only did he dissolve the Iraqi Army and police and 385,000 personnel of Army, 2,85,000 of police were thrown out of employment, but also made every moderate person furious. These readily joined the insurgents – lending them support – manpower as well as ammunition. Bremer’s economic policy was also a great disaster. He closed 193 state owned industries. The effect on the economy was catastrophic.
Iraq emerged as a focal point for Islamic radicalism. Foreign jihadist rushed to Iraq from all sides. As one officer put it, “we don’t have enough bullets, given all the enemies we are creating.” (p. 179).
In the relentless pounding of Falluja by air the Americans also used “white phosphorus”. They had accused Saddam of using chemical and biological weapons … ironically they are using the same (p186).
For quite some time the sectarian bias remained totally forgotten. In order to succeed the Americans fanned their hatred of each other by inciting one against another, by planting bombs in mosques and this game plan ultimately paid dividends. The cut-throat competition gave the Americans much needed relief. Askari Shrine was bombed and its golden dome destroyed. This led to demographic change by taking recourse to redistribution of Shia-Sunni population. Sectarian violence led to a civil war - with 6,00,000 casualties.
Reconstruction was not only at a slow pace (at some place negligible) it gave multinationals specially owned by Dick Cheney (and their subsidiaries) huge “war profit earning” (p237). The projects remained incomplete and substandard.
The Army resorted to planting success stories by bribing selected journalists. Planted and paid propaganda produced a negative effect (p. 239) what was assumed as “short, swift and least expensive” defied all hopes of quick gains.
The cost grew from 50 billions to $ 3 trillion. Add to this the future burden to treat and compensate soldiers – disability payment for 50 years, round the clock care for many for decades. Budget deficit drove Americans to borrow from China. The Bush blunder may be described as a “catastrophic fiasco”. (p242)
In part two, the author describes various counter insurgency moves. After dismissing a sane report by Iraq Study Group, Bush administration resorted to its own strategy of surge by rushing 20,000 additional forces. The new one is a two fold surge. While it raised the strength of ground force it simultaneously reduced ground patrolling to a minimum. It was strongly criticised throughout U.S. Its failure has been highlighted in a B.B.C. survey (p. 270).Having failed on military, economic and diplomatic fronts, the Bush administration entered into agreements with liquor fond Sheikhs for extending their support in controlling the al-Qaida. Wine and whiskey to the tune of thousands of dollars were promised to them. This chapter is substantiated with graphs, charts, bar diagrams. The author has cited from several sources. His documentation as well as statistical data provides strength to his academic scholarship.
To be continued in the next issue