The Guardian, in a 15-month investigation, has unearthed the fact that Donald Rumsfeld brought veterans from the dirty wars in Latin America, Colonel James Steele and Colonel James H Coffman, to empower sectarian warfare against the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. He set up detention centers for Sunni insurgents that were run by Iraqis but monitored and checked on by two men, one of whom reported to Rumsfeld, the other to Petraeus. So we have the first solid evidence that Petraeus, the golden mediocrity of Washington, was also an abetter of the worst forms of torture imaginable:
“Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee,” claimed [Iraqi General Muntadher] al-Samari, who worked with Petraeus’ and Rumsfeld’s designated men on the ground] … “Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.” There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman tortured prisoners themselves, only that they were sometimes present in the detention centres where torture took place, and were involved in the processing of thousands of detainees.
But reporters witnessed horrifying war crimes in US-occupied Iraq, under the authority of those reporting directly to Rumsfeld and Petraeus:
Samari claimed that torture was routine in the commando-controlled detention centres. “I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library’s columns. And he was tied up, with his legs above his head. Tied up. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten.”
Gilles Peress, a photographer, came across Steele when he was on assignment for the New York Times, visiting one of the commando centres in the same library, in Samarra. “We were in a room in the library interviewing Steele and I’m looking around I see blood everywhere.”
The reporter Peter Maass was also there, working on the story with Peress. “And while this interview was going on with a Saudi jihadi with Jim Steele also in the room, there were these terrible screams, somebody shouting ‘Allah, Allah, Allah!’. But it wasn’t kind of religious ecstasy or something like that, these were screams of pain and terror.”
How did we find all this out? Bradley Manning’s leaks. Sometimes a whistleblower is not only a traitor. He can also be a patriot, uncovering war crimes. The full documentary can be seen here. A five-minute version is here.