| Manning, Snowden + the gods of war: Don’t believe the hype!

The gods of war: don’t believe the hype ~ Neil Harrison, COUNTERFIRE.

The US empire’s illusion of benign omnipotence has been broken by the heroic acts of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden writes Neil Harrison.

 

In god we trust

 

The grotesque climax to the manifest destiny dream. Invisible in the sky, malevolent and capricious, an Old Testament-style god rains arbitrary, brutal fate upon unsuspecting civilians.

On that Baghdad street, on that day, god existed. The Reuters journalist and his driver, gunned down for carrying an extended camera lens; the father killed taking his children to school; his children – injured and forced to witness their father’s abject death. For all of these people and more, god existed that day and his name was America.

 

Bradley ManningBradley Manning

Of course, this was the footage which finally convinced the troubled Private Bradley Manning to begin a campaign of, in his own words, “shattering the fantasy.” Thanks to Manning, no serious observer of this video, or of USA foreign policy in general, could now continue to indulge in the fantasy of America as the world’s friendly policeman, not without excercising some serious double-think. Especially not while listening to the Apache helicopter‘s crew gloat and laugh as they kill and maim innocents (it somehow gets worse the more you see it).

 

Arguably, the video was the most important thing that Bradley Manning leaked before his arrest and incarceration. Footage of other Apache helicopter attacks in Iraq were already available on Youtube, transcripts from the attack had already been printed elsewhere in a book and the world already knew that the Reuters journalists had been killed by American forces, but images and sounds have a visceral impact which mere words often lack. A worldwide, large-scale audience was, for this particular video, guaranteed by the involvement of Wikileaks – Julian Assange‘s flair for understated drama publicly piled up embarassment for the US military. Headline status meant that millions could now no longer continue with the ‘fantasy’ anymore than they could ‘unsee’ the footage. Therefore, by the time Manning’s subsequent leaks (including the war logs and the notorious diplomatic cables) came to light, they were being registered by a global public already primed with enlightened eyes and a deep sense of scepticism.

The convergence of a multitude of factors provided Manning with motive and opportunity to inflict one of the biggest clusterfucks in the American god-machine’s history of propaganda war- US government paranoia post 9/11 meant that, due to their insistence on inter-department ‘sharing,’ anyone with clearance could access virtually all government information. Manning’s genius with computers allowed him to trawl for his quarry with ease. Moreover, he felt desperately isolated. In the Mesopotamian desert, thousands of miles from home, among unsympathetic colleagues – it was far from the perfect situation for a very young man suffering deep personal turmoil. Most importantly of all, however, and the thing we should remember above all else, is that Private Bradley Manning cared.

He cared that he may have been complicit in a regime which employed (or contracted out) torture, “I was actively involved in something that I was completely against…” He cared that his fellow Americans were deliberately being kept ignorant of the true nature of their government’s foreign policy, I want people to see the truth…without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public. Manning cared enough to risk pissing off a god.

 

Edward SnowdenEdward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower. Photograph: Guardian

As this week’s verdict of guilty on twenty counts (though, symbolically, not ‘aiding the enemy,’ which begs the question – if no ‘enemy’ was ‘aided’ where the hell is the crime?) could potentially result in over 130 years jail time for him, and bearing in mind the dreadful incarceration he has already endured, this god is at pains to ensure few follow suit.

 

The American god-machine sent its son to the Middle-east. Once there, he made a stand for truth and human compassion. For his sacrifice he is now being symbolically martyred. Does this sound familiar? You would be forgiven for finding these comparisons somewhat contrived (put it down to artistic licence). However, before dismissing the notion entirely, consider a couple of further examples.

Firstly, thanks to the actions of another brave whistleblower, Edward Snowden, we now know something of American pretensions to omnipotence. America’s National Security Agency, it is becoming ever more apparent, are now able to read private emails and listen in on telephone conversations not only in the US. but across the globe. For reasons of security, in order to protect you, the NSA needs to be able to hear your weekly takeaway order. America-god knows your favourite pizza toppings. Feel safer?

Finally, there exists the reality of ritual appeasement. In Slavoj Zizek‘s The Year of Dreaming Dangerouslyhe describes how the US must:

‘…suck up a daily influx of one billion dollars from other nations to pay for its consumption and is, as such, the universal Keynesian consumer that keeps the world economy running. (So much for the anti-Keynesian economic ideology that seems to predominate today!) This influx, which is effectively like the tithe paid to Rome in antiquity (or the gifts sacrificed to the Minotaur by the Ancient Greeks), relies on a complex economic mechanism: the US is “trusted” as the safe and stable center, so that all the others, from the oil-producing Arab countries to Western Europe and Japan, and now even the Chinese, invest their surplus profits in the US. Since this trust is primarily ideological and military, not economic, the problem for the US is how to justify its imperial role – it needs a permanent state of war, thus the “war on terror,” offering itself as the universal protector of all other “normal” (not “rogue”) states.'[1]

Herein lies the truth of the matter. America is not a god, it simply wears this diguise of ‘justification,’ therefore maintaining the inflated faux-capacity, to attempt to behave like one. In truth, the US is becoming increasingly desperate to appease and control its own economic god.

But who benefits from this global arrangement? The American people? Maybe we should ask the citizens of Detroit that one?

If we in the ‘liberal’ West really are benefitting from this international tithe-paying/war-making economic regime, then at least now, thanks to Manning and Snowden, we can appreciate the true cost it incurs. Perhaps we may yet glimpse our own future therein, because the only people who have ever genuinely benefitted, who will ever benefit, from the system Zizek describes, are in a tiny and exclusive minority. In the words of Allen Ginsberg, they are:

The Secret,

The Drunk,

The Brutal,

The Dirty Rich.

Describing the way in which “emancipatory politics,” such as socialism or feminism, work “by reaching for a future,” Terry Eagleton invokes [2] a useful image:

“[They insert] the thin end of the wedge of the future into the heart of the present. They represent a bridge between present and future , a point where the two intersect.”

This is exactly what Manning and Snowden have achieved. They have given us a brief view of a future in which no state can be unaccountable for its actions, however clandestine, however obscure its motives – not even the most powerful on Earth.

Our immediate task for the future is to continue forcing the ‘wedge,’ to ensure that the illusion continues to be shattered. Let no motive of those who would make war go uninterogated. Let no action of those who hoard wealth at the expense of the pain, suffering and even the lives of others go unchallenged. This is how best to honour the bravery and sacrifices of Manning, Snowden and others like them. This is how we will display our solidarity with them as they face uncertain futures. This is how we will consign the gods to history.

Notes

[1] Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, p. 10

[2] Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right p. 69

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| Iraq regime-change: Henchman who executed Saddam killed!

Report: Man who executed Saddam Hussein killed in Iraq ~ Al Arabiya.

The masked man standing on the left side of the former Iraqi strongman, slipping the noose around his neck, has been killed, according to Baath Party. (Al Arabiya)

One of the executioners involved in the hanging of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been killed, the outlawed Baath Party said in a statement on Friday.

While not providing a date for when the executioner was killed, the statement identified him as Mohammed Nassif al-Maliki, who allegedly appeared in the video of Saddam’s execution.

The statement said Maliki was the masked man standing on the left side of the former Iraqi strongman and slipping the noose around his neck.

In the report, posted on the party’s official website, a “well-informed” source was cited as saying that “party members killed Mohammed Nassif al-Maliki, near Yusufiyah city (about 25 km southwest of, Baghdad).”

Iraqi officials have not commented on the reports of Maliki’s death.

The site mentioned that before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Maliki used to sell vegetables in the country’s Karbala province.
After Saddam’s execution, he joined Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s bodyguards and was granted the rank of captain after leading the former Iraqi president to the gallows, the report stated.

Earlier this year, Iraq’s cabinet unveiled sweeping reforms to a law barring members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party from public life as part of moves to placate angry rallies by the country’s Sunni Arab minority.

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| Iraq Warns Israel: Do Not Use Our Airspace To Strike Iran!

Baghdad has warned Israel that it would respond to any attempts by the Jewish state to use Iraqi airspace for a strike against Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, a top Iraqi minister told AFP.

 

The remarks from Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy prime minister responsible for energy affairs, mark the first time a senior Iraqi official has publicly warned Israel against entering its airspace — the most direct route — to hit targets in Iran.

Shahristani also said that Iraq had received assurances from Washington that the United States would not use its airspace to attack Iran, which Western powers believe is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran has repeatedly denied the claim.

“The (Americans) have assured us that they will never violate Iraqi airspace or Iraqi sovereignty by using our airspace to attack any of our neighbours,” Shahristani said in an interview in his office in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.

“We have also warned Israel that if they violate Iraqi airspace, they will have to bear the consequences.”

The minister said that the issue had been discussed in Iraq’s national security council, and the warning had been passed to Israel “through countries that they have relations with”.

Asked how Iraq would react to any such Israeli attempt to target Iran’s nuclear programme, Shahristani said: “Obviously, Iraq wouldn’t be disclosing its reaction, to allow Israel to take that into account.”

Western powers led by Washington along with Israel are at loggerheads with Iran over allegations that its nuclear programme is aimed at developing an atomic weapon.

Tehran has repeatedly rejected the charges, and in turn accuses its arch-foes Israel and the United States of waging a deadly campaign of sabotage against its disputed nuclear programme, which it insists is for peaceful purposes.

Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, has refused to rule out military action against Iran.

Shahristani said a similar policy applied to the use of Iraq’s airspace for any military action in neighbouring Syria, where rebels have fought a bloody civil war against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since 2011.

Iraq has sought to avoid publicly taking sides between Assad and those opposed to his rule, fearful of a violent spillover of the conflict in Syria, with which it shares a 600-kilometre (375-mile) border.

But Baghdad has been accused by the United States of turning a blind eye to Iranian flights through its airspace carrying military equipment for Assad’s regime.

International powers have imposed biting sanctions on Iran in a bid to force it to cooperate and open up its nuclear programme for more invasive investigations, but Shahristani said that because of Iraq’s economic ties with its eastern neighbour, it would only abide by UN sanctions, and not those implemented by Washington and Europe.

He pointed in particular to Iraq’s need for gas imports from Iran in order to fuel its power stations, with the country attempting to rebuild its badly-damaged electricity infrastructure.

“Iraq has its own national interest,” he said. “Power generation is very critical … and there is no way we can fuel our new power stations, that are being constructed and will be ready before the end of the year, without having gas from Iran.”

“We expect the US, as our ally, to understand the need of the Iraqi people for power generation. If any friend can make the gas available from other sources, by all means, we would be very happy to consider that option.”

“But, given our geographical location, the only gas available to Iraq is from Iran now, and we have explained this to our American friends.”

He added that Iraq had held talks earlier this year with Syria and Iran for a gas pipeline that would go from Iran through Iraq to Syria, but no funds or timeline had been agreed for the proposed project.

Another pipeline carrying gas from Iran to supply power stations in Baghdad and central Iraq is under construction, he said.

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| Camp Nama: British personnel reveal horrors of secret US base in Baghdad!

Camp Nama: British personnel reveal horrors of secret US base in Baghdad ~

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Detainees captured by SAS and SBS squads subjected to human-rights abuses at detention centre, say British witnesses

View Baghdad’s secret torture facility

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baghdad international airport

Detainees were taken to Camp Nama, a secret US detention centre at Baghdad international airport. Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP

British soldiers and airmen who helped to operate a secretive US detention facility in Baghdad that was at the centre of some of the most serious human rights abuses to occur in Iraq after the invasion have, for the first time, spoken about abuses they witnessed there.

Personnel from two RAF squadrons and one Army Air Corps squadron were given guard and transport duties at the secret prison, the Guardian has established.

And many of the detainees were brought to the facility by snatch squads formed from Special Air Service and Special Boat Service squadrons.

Codenamed Task Force 121, the joint US-UK special forces unit was at first deployed to detain individuals thought to have information about Saddam Hussein‘s weapons of mass destruction. Once it was realised that Saddam’s regime had long since abandoned its WMD programme, TF 121 was re-tasked with tracking down people who might know where the deposed dictator and his loyalists might be, and then with catching al-Qaida leaders who sprang up in the country after the regime collapsed.

Suspects were brought to the secret prison at Baghdad International airport, known as Camp Nama, for questioning by US military and civilian interrogators. But the methods used were so brutal that they drew condemnation not only from a US human rights body but from a special investigator reporting to the Pentagon.

A British serviceman who served at Nama recalled: “I saw one man having his prosthetic leg being pulled off him, and being beaten about the head with it before he was thrown on to the truck.”

On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, a number of former members of TF 121 and its successor unit TF6-26 have come forward to describe the abuses they witnessed, and to state that they complained about the mistreatment of detainees.

The abuses they say they saw include:

• Iraqi prisoners being held for prolonged periods in cells the size of large dog kennels.

• Prisoners being subjected to electric shocks.

• Prisoners being routinely hooded.

• Inmates being taken into a sound-proofed shipping container for interrogation, and emerging in a state of physical distress.

It is unclear how many of their complaints were registered or passed up the chain of command. A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said a search of its records did not turn up “anything specific” about complaints from British personnel at Camp Nama, or anything that substantiated such complaints.

Nevertheless, the emergence of evidence of British involvement in the running of such a notorious detention facility appears to raise fresh questions about ministerial approval of operations that resulted in serious human rights abuses.

Geoff Hoon, defence secretary at the time, insisted he had no knowledge of Camp Nama. When it was pointed out to him that the British military had provided transport services and a guard force, and had helped to detain Nama’s inmates, he replied: “I’ve never heard of the place.”

The MoD, on the other hand, repeatedly failed to address questions about ministerial approval of British operations at Camp Nama. Nor would the department say whether ministers had been made aware of concerns about human rights abuses there.

crispin blunt nama

Former army officer Crispin Blunt accused defence secretary John Hutton in 2009 of sweeping under the carpet the evidence of direct British service involvement. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PAHowever, one peculiarity of the way in which UK forces operated when bringing prisoners to Camp Nama suggests that ministers and senior MoD officials may have had reason to know those detainees were at risk of mistreatment. British soldiers were almost always accompanied by a lone American soldier, who was then recorded as having captured the prisoner. Members of the SAS and SBS were repeatedly briefed on the importance of this measure.

It was an arrangement that enabled the British government to side-step a Geneva convention clause that would have obliged it to demand the return of any prisoner transferred to the US once it became apparent that they were not being treated in accordance with the convention. And it consigned the prisoners to what some lawyers have described as a legal black hole.

Surrounded by row after row of wire fencing, guarded by either US Rangers or RAF personnel, and with an Abrams tank parked permanently at its main gate, to the outside observer Camp Nama seemed identical to scores of military bases that sprang up after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Once inside, however, it was clear that Nama was different.

Not that many people did enter the special forces prison. It was off limits to most members of the US and UK military, with even the officer commanding the US detention facility at Guantánamo being refused entry at one point. Inspectors from the International Committee of the Red Cross were never admitted through its gates.

One person who has been widely reported to have been seen there frequentlywas General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of US Joint Special Operations forces in Iraq.

general Stanley McChrystal

General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of US Joint Special Operations forces in Iraq, was said to have visited Nama. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the GuardianWhile Abu Ghraib prison, just a few miles to the west, would achieve global notoriety after photographs emerged depicting abuses committed there, Camp Nama escaped attention for a simple reason: photography was banned. The only people who attempted to take pictures – a pair of US Navy Seals – were promptly arrested. All discussion of what happened there was forbidden.

Before establishing its prison at Nama, TF 121 had been known as Task Force 20, and had run a detention and interrogation facility at a remote location known as H1, in Iraq’s western desert. At least one prisoner had died en route to H1, allegedly kicked to death aboard an RAF Chinook.

The British were always junior partners in TF 121. Their contingent was known as Task Force Black. US Delta Force troops made up Task Force Green and US Army Rangers Task Force Red. One half of Task Force Black comprised SAS and SBS troopers, based a short distance away at the government compound known as the Green Zone. They detained so-called high-value detainees, who were brought to Camp Nama. The other half were the air and ground crews of 7 Squadron and 47 Squadron of the RAF, and 657 Squadron of the Army Air Corps, who lived on the camp itself, operating helicopters used in detention operations and a Hercules transport aircraft.

“The Americans went out to bring in prisoners every night, and British special forces would go out once or twice a week, almost always with one American accompanying them,” one British serviceman who served at Nama recalled earlier this month.

”The prisoners would be brought in by helicopter, usually one at a time, although I once saw five being led off a Chinook. They were taken into a large hangar to be bagged and tagged, a bag put over their heads and their hands plasticuffed behind their backs. Then they would be lifted or thrown on to the back of a pick-up truck and driven to the Joint Operations Centre.”

The Joint Operations Centre, or JOC, was a single storey building a few hundred yards from the airport’s main runway. Some of those who served at Nama believed it had formerly been used by Saddam’s intelligence agencies.

The US and UK forces worked together so closely that they began to wear items of each others’ uniforms. But while British personnel were permitted into the front of the JOC, few were allowed into the rear, where interrogations took place. This was the preserve of US military interrogators and CIA officers based at Camp Nama. “They included a number of women,” said one British airman. “One had a ponytail and always wore two pistols, so we had to nickname her Lara Croft.”

There were four interrogation cells at the rear of the JOC, known as the blue, red, black and soft rooms, as well as a medical screening area. The soft room contained sofas and rugs, and was a place where detainees could be shown some kindness. Harsh interrogations took place in the red and blue rooms, while the black room – described as windowless, with hooks in the ceiling, and where every surface was painted black – is said to be the cell where the worse abuses were perpetrated.

According to an investigation by Human Rights Watch, the New York-based NGO, detainees were subject to “beatings, exposure to extreme cold, threats of death, humiliation and various forms of psychological abuse or torture” at the JOC. The New York Times has reported that prisoners were beaten with rifle butts and had paintball guns fired at them for target practice.

Signs posted around Nama are said to have proclaimed the warning “No Blood, No Foul”: if interrogators did not make a prisoner bleed, they would not face disciplinary action.

There was also an overspill interrogation room cell behind the JOC: a shipping container lined with padding. “You could see people being taken in there, and they were in pretty poor shape when they were taken out,” said one British witness. He adds: “Everyone’s seen the Abu Ghraib pictures. But I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

A number of British soldiers who served with TF 121 said that some SAS officers were permitted to attend interrogations at the rear of the JOC. Human Rights Watch reports that one SAS officer took part in the beating of a prisoner thought to know the whereabouts of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

While not being interrogated, according to witnesses, prisoners were held in cells the size of large dog kennels. “They were made of wire mesh with sloping corrugated roofs,” said a British ex-serviceman who served at Nama. “They were chest high, and two feet wide. There were about 100 of them, in three rows, and they always appeared to have at least one prisoner in each. They would be freezing at night, and really hot during the day.

“The prisoners were mostly men, although I did see two women being taken into the JOC for interrogation. I’ve no idea what became of them, or to any of the male prisoners after their interrogation was completed.”

Some of the scenes at Nama were so disturbing that personnel serving there would literally look the other way, rather than witness the abuse. “I remember being on sentry duty at a post overlooking the dog kennels, and the guy I was with wouldn’t even look at them,” one British eyewitness recalls. “I was saying: ‘Hey turn around and look at them.’ And he wouldn’t. He just wouldn’t turn around, because he knew they were there.”

Some complaints made at the time by British personnel were immediately suppressed. “I remember talking to one British army officer about what I had seen, and he replied: ‘You didn’t see that – do you understand?’ There was a great deal of nervousness about the place. I had the impression that the British were scared we would be kicked off the operation if we made a fuss,” the ex-serviceman said.

According to one US interrogator interviewed by Human Rights Watch, however, written authorisations were required for many of the abuses inflicted on prisoners at Nama, indicating that their use was approved up the chain of command.

“There was an authorisation template on a computer, a sheet that you would print out, or actually just type it in,” the interrogator said. “It was a checklist. It was already typed out for you, environmental controls, hot and cold, you know, strobe lights, music, so forth. But you would just check what you want to use off, and if you planned on using a harsh interrogation you’d just get it signed off. It would be signed off by the commander.”

iraq detainees

According to one British serviceman who was at Nama, US soldiers would bring prisoners in every night. Photograph: Jehad Nga/CorbisCamp Nama was such a secret location that when General Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, was sent to Iraq in August 2003 to advise on interrogation regimes he was initially refused entry, according to Human Rights Watch.

At the end of 2003, the Pentagon sent a special investigator, Stuart Herrington, a retired military intelligence colonel, to discover more about the methods being employed at Nama. In December that year Herrington reported:“Detainees captured by TF 121 have shown injuries that caused examining medical personnel to note that ‘detainee shows signs of having been beaten’. It seems clear that TF 121 needs to be reined in with respect to its treatment of detainees.”

More than 30 members of the task force were subsequently disciplined for abusing prisoners. Yet the beatings continued, according to British witnesses. The dog kennel cells remained in place, and UK special forces continued to be used to snatch suspects to be brought in for interrogation. “I can see now that we were supplying the meat for the American interrogators,” says one.

In February 2004, senior British special forces and intelligence officers felt emboldened enough to mount a detention operation without an accompanying US soldier. Troopers surrounded a house in southern Baghdad that MI6 had identified as a safe house for foreign fighters. Two men were killed in the raid and two others of Pakistani origin were detained and handed over to the US authorities.

After questioning at Nama, the pair were flown to Bagram, north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, where they are thought to remain incarcerated, despite efforts by lawyers to secure their release by persuading the appeal court in London to order the issuing of a writ of habeas corpus.

Two months later, in April 2004, US news media published a series of shocking photographs showing the abuse of prisoners at a different prison, Abu Ghraib, where individuals detained by regular troops rather than special forces were being held. A few days later Task Force 121 was renamed Task Force 6-26. Shortly after this, two US Navy Seals – who had their own compound with Camp Nama – were seen taking photographs from the roof of their building. Both men were immediately arrested, British witnesses say and were not seen at Nama again.

Later that summer the secret prison was moved to Balad, a sprawling air base 50 miles north of Baghdad, where it became known as the Temporary Screening Facility (TSF). The Army Air Force and RAF troops continued their role there.

SAS troops continued to provide detainees for interrogation, operating from their base in one of a row of seven large villas inside the Green Zone. The villa next door was occupied by troops from Delta Force. Each of the homes had a swimming pool, and at the end of the long garden behind the SAS villa was a large hut occupied by a UK military intelligence unit, the Joint Forward Interrogation Team, or JFIT.

Individuals detained by the SAS – accompanied by their lone American escort – would be flown by helicopter to a landing pad behind the villas, and taken straight to the JFIT. According to former members of TF 6-26, after a brief interrogation by the British, they would be handed over to US forces, who would question them further before releasing them, or arrange for them to be flown north to Balad.

In late 2003, according to former taskforce members, two SAS members wandered next door to the Delta Force villa, where they were horrified to see two Iraqi prisoners being tortured. “They were being given electric shocks from cattle prods and their heads were being held under the water in the swimming pool. There were less visits next door after that.”

While a complaint was made, it is not thought to have reported through the chain of command. And it certainly appears not to have reached Downing Street, as shortly afterwards Tony Blair, then prime minister, visited the SAS house to thank the troopers for their efforts.

By the end of 2004, according to the BBC journalist Mark Urban, MI6 officers who had visited the secret prison at Balad were expressing concern that the kennel cells had been reconstructed there, and the British government later warned the US authorities that it would hand over prisoners only if there was an undertaking that they would not be sent there.

Shortly afterwards, the RAF Hercules operated by the task force was shot down while flying from Nama to Balad, with the loss of all 10 men on board. It was the largest loss of life suffered by the RAF in a single incident since the second world war.

By now, a growing number of British members of the task force were deeply disillusioned about their role. When one, SAS trooper Ben Griffin, decided he could not return to Iraq, he expected to be face a court martial. Instead, he discovered that a number of his officers sympathised with him, and he was permitted to leave the army with a first-class testimonial.

When Griffin went public, making clear that British troops were handing over to the US military large numbers of prisoners who faced torture, the MoD came under pressure to explain itself. In February 2009 the then defence secretary, John Hutton, told the Commons that “review of records of detention resulting from security operations carried out by UK armed forces” had disclosed that two men who had been handed over had since been moved to Afghanistan. His statement made no mention of the joint task force, of H1, or of Camp Nama or Balad or how British airmen and soldiers were helping to operate the secret prisons.

Crispin Blunt, a Tory MP and former army officer, accused Hutton of “simply sweeping under the carpet the apparent evidence of direct British service involvement with delivery to gross mistreatment amounting to torture involving hundreds if not thousands of people”.

Today, 10 years after the invasion and the creation of the joint US-UK taskforce that detained and interrogated large numbers of Iraqis, the MoD responds to questions about their abuse by stating that it is aware only of “anecdotal accounts” of mistreatment, and that “any further evidence of human rights abuse should be passed to the appropriate authorities for investigation”.

Griffin had done just that, asking the MoD itself to investigate the activities of the taskforce of which he had been a member. The MoD obtained an injunction to silence him, and warned he faced jail if he ever spoke out again.

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| Finally: hear Bradley Manning in his own voice!

Finally: hear Bradley Manning in his own voice ~


    • ________________________________________________________ 
    • A full audio recording of the whistleblower is released today despite a court prohibition on such recordings!
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    • bradley manning statement
      (FILES)PFC Bradley Manning is escorted by military police as he departs the courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland in this April 25, 2012 file photo. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

      (updated below – Update II)

      The court-martial proceeding of Bradley Manning has, rather ironically, been shrouded in extreme secrecy, often exceeding even that which prevails at Guantanamo military commissions. This secrecy prompted the Center for Constitutional Rights to commence formal legal action on behalf of several journalists and activists, including myself, to compel greater transparency. One particularly oppressive rule governing the Manning trial has barred not only all video or audio recordings of the proceedings, but also any photographs being taken of Manning or even transcripts made of what is said in court. Combined with the prohibition on all press interviews with him, this extraordinary secrecy regime has meant that, in the two-and-a-half years since his arrest, the world has been prevented, literally, from hearing Manning’s voice. That changes today.

      The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), the group I recently helped found and on whose board I sit, has received a full, unedited audio recording of the one-hour statement Manning made in court two weeks ago, and this morning has published that recording in full.

      Hear the full audio here or in excerpts below:

      In that statement, Manning details at length what he did and, more important, the reasons he chose to do it. I’m personally unaware of who made the recording and am not aware of how it was made, but its authenticity has been verified. Last week, the superb independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, who has covered the proceedings from start to finish, created the best transcript she could of Manning’s statement, which was published, among other places, in the Guardian. But this audio recording provides the first opportunity to hear Manning, in his own voice, explain his actions; that, presumably, is why whoever recorded Manning’s statement risked violating the court-martial rules to do so.

      Earlier this morning, the FPF, along with the full audio, published a statement of why it chose to publish this along with some brief analysis. I’m posting below some of the most significant excerpts of Manning’s statement. The first excerpt is in the form of a 5-minute video produced by the documentarian and FPF Board Member Laura Poitras, highlighting Manning’s explanation of how he reacted when he first saw the video of the Apache helicopter gunning down Reuters journalists in Baghdad and then those who showed up to rescue the wounded, including a van with children in it.

      The US government and its military has carefully ensured that people hearabout Manning from the government, but do not hear from Manning himself. It is way past time for Manning’s voice to be heard:

      Manning on the Apache helicopter video

      In April, 2010, WikiLeaks made major news around the world when it published its “Collateral Murder” video, showing US soldiers in Baghdadgleefully celebrating as they gunned down civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and then showered their rescuers with bullets. Here, in Poitras’ video, is Manning, in his own words, explaining his reaction when he first saw that video and the process that led him to leak it to the world:

      Manning on the Iraq and Afghanistan War logs

      In July, 2010, WikiLeaks began publishing tens of thousands of war logs detailing various episodes in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Among other things, these documents revealed 15,000 Iraqi civilian deaths than had been uncounted, a US policy expressly barring US troops from investigating human rights abuses by the Iraqi forces they were training, previously unknown civilian deaths in Afghanistan at the hands of Nato, and definitive proof that US government and military officials had knowingly lied to the public about these wars. Here is Manning explaining his reaction when he first saw these documents and why he decided to leak them; listen on the player above.

      During this time a blizzard bombarded the mid-atlantic, and I spent a significant period of time essentially stuck in my aunt’s house in Maryland. I began to think about what I knew and the information I still had in my possession. For me, the SigActs represented the on the ground reality of both the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      “I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and anger on both sides. I began to become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year. The SigActs documented this in great detail and provide a context of what we were seeing on the ground.

      “In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

      “I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.”

      Manning on what caused him to question the Iraq War

      In his chats with the government informant who turned him in, Manning – who had been promised confidentiality by the informant who claimed to be a journalist and a pastor – described what first made him disillusioned about the Iraq war in which he was serving. Specifically, he described how he had discovered that many of the Iraqis whom he was helping to detain were not insurgents at all, but simply critics of the Malaki government. But when Manning alerted his superiors to this fact, he was dismissed away, and realized then that using the formal whistleblowing channels would result in nothing other than his own punishment. Here is Manning elaborating on those events and explaining why this led him to leak to WikiLeaks; listen on the player above.

      On 27 February 2010, a report was received from a subordinate battalion. The report described an event in which the Federal Police or FP detained 15 individuals for printing anti-Iraqi literature. On 2 March 2010, I received instructions from an S3 section officer in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Tactical Operation Center or TOC to investigate the matter, and figure out who these quote “bad guys” unquote were and how significant this event was for the Federal Police.

      “Over the course of my research I found that none of the individuals had previous ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist militia groups. A few hours later, I received several reports from the scene – from this subordinate battalion. They were accidentally sent to an officer on a different team on the S2 section and she forwarded them to me.

      “These photos included picture of the individuals, pallets of unprinted paper and seized copies of the final printed material or the printed document; and a high resolution photo of the printed material itself. I printed up one copy of a high resolution photo – I laminated it for ease of use and transfer. I then walked to the TOC and delivered the laminated copy to our category two interpreter.

      “She reviewed the information and about a half and hour later delivered a rough written transcript in English to the S2 section. I read the transcript and followed up with her, asking her for her take on the content. She said it was easy for her to transcribe verbatim, since I blew up the photograph and laminated it. She said the general nature of the document was benign. The document, as I had sensed as well, was merely a scholarly critique of the then current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

      “It detailed corruption within the cabinet of al-Maliki’s government and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people. After discovering this discrepancy between the Federal Police’s report and the interpreter’s transcript, I forwarded this discovery to the top OIC and the battle NCOIC. The top OIC and the overhearing battle captain informed me that they didn’t need or want to know this information anymore. They told me to quote ‘drop it’ unquote and to just assist them and the Federal Police in finding out, where more of these print shops creating quote “anti-Iraqi literature” unquote.

      “I couldn’t believe what I heard and I returned to the T-SCIF and complained to the other analysts and my section NCOIC about what happened. Some were sympathetic, but no one wanted to do anything about it.

      “I am the type of person who likes to know how things work. And, as an analyst, this means I always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts in my section or other sections within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was not satisfied with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie cutter assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what we could to correct or mitigate a situation.

      “I knew that if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time – if ever.

      “Instead of assisting the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police, I decided to take the information and expose it to the [WikiLeaks organization], in the hope that before the upcoming 7 March 2010 election, they could generate some immediate press on the issue and prevent this unit of the Federal Police from continuing to crack down in political opponents of al-Maliki.”

      Manning on the diplomatic cables

      Here is Manning explaining his first reaction to reading various US diplomatic cables, and what led him to read more and eventually release them; listen on the player above.

      I read more of the diplomatic cables published on the Department of State Net Centric Diplomacy. With my insatiable curiosity and interest in geopolitics I became fascinated with them. I read not only the cables on Iraq, but also about countries and events that I found interesting.

      “The more I read, the more I was fascinated with the way that we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world.”

      Manning on the due diligence he performed over the cables

      To impugn Manning’s conduct, it is often claimed – by people who cannot possibly know this – that he failed to assess the diplomatic cables he was releasing and simply handed them over without having any idea what was in them. Here is Manning explaining the detailed process he undertook to determine their contents and ensure that they would not result in serious harm to innocent individuals; listen on the player above.

      Up to this point, during the deployment, I had issues I struggled with and difficulty at work. Of the documents release, the cables were the only one I was not absolutely certain couldn’t harm the United States. I conducted research on the cables published on the Net Centric Diplomacy, as well as how Department of State cables worked in general.

      “In particular, I wanted to know how each cable was published on SIRPnet via the Net Centric Diplomacy. As part of my open source research, I found a document published by the Department of State on its official website.

      “The document provided guidance on caption markings for individual cables and handling instructions for their distribution. I quickly learned the caption markings clearly detailed the sensitivity of the Department of State cables. For example, NODIS or No Distribution was used for messages at the highest sensitivity and were only distributed to the authorized recipients.

      “The SIPDIS or SIPRnet distribution caption was applied only to recording of other information messages that were deemed appropriate for a release for a wide number of individuals. According to the Department of State guidance for a cable to have the SIPDIS caption, it could not include other captions that were intended to limit distribution.

      “The SIPDIS caption was only for information that could only be shared with anyone with access to SIPRnet. I was aware that thousands of military personel, DoD, Department of State, and other civilian agencies had easy access to the tables. The fact that the SIPDIS caption was only for wide distribution made sense to me, given that the vast majority of the Net Centric Diplomacy Cables were not classified.

      “The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public. I once read and used a quote on open diplomacy written after the First World War and how the world would be a better place if states would avoid making secret pacts and deals with and against each other.

      “I thought these cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy. Given all of the Department of State cables that I read, the fact that most of the cables were unclassified, and that all the cables have a SIPDIS caption.

      “I believe that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States, however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations.”

      Manning on contacting other media outlets

      Here is Manning describing how he first contacted traditional news outlets about what he found; listen on the player above.

      At my aunt’s house I debated what I should do with the SigActs – in particular whether I should hold on to them – or expose them through a press agency. At this point I decided that it made sense to try to expose the SigAct tables to an American newspaper. I first called my local news paper, The Washington Post, and spoke with a woman saying that she was a reporter. I asked her if the Washington Post would be interested in receiving information that would have enormous value to the American public.

      “Although we spoke for about five minutes concerning the general nature of what I possessed, I do not believe she took me seriously. She informed me that the Washington Post would possibly be interested, but that such decisions were made only after seeing the information I was referring to and after consideration by senior editors.

      “I then decided to contact [missed word] the most popular newspaper, The New York Times. I called the public editor number on The New York Times website. The phone rang and was answered by a machine. I went through the menu to the section for news tips. I was routed to an answering machine. I left a message stating I had access to information about Iraq and Afghanistan that I believed was very important. However, despite leaving my Skype phone number and personal email address, I never received a reply from The New York Times.

      “I also briefly considered dropping into the office for the Political Commentary blog, Politico, however the weather conditions during my leave hampered my efforts to travel. After these failed efforts I had ultimately decided to submit the materials to the WLO. I was not sure if the WLO would actually publish these SigAct tables – or even if they would publish at all. I was concerned that they might not be noticed by the American media. However, based upon what I read about the WLO through my research described above, this seemed to be the best medium for publishing this information to the world within my reach.”

      Yesterday, former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller published a column which, while partially praising Manning’s leaks, insinuated that the claims Manning made in his in-court statement about his motives and actions may be unreliable because they are not found in the logs of the chats in which he engaged with the government informant. That is factually false. As bothNathan Fuller and Greg Mitchell conclusively documented yesterday, Manning’s descriptions match perfectly what he said in those chats when he thought nobody would ever hear what he was saying. That’s what makes Manning’s statements about his motives and thought process so reliable: they not only are consistent with his actions, but with everything he said when he thought he was speaking in private.

      Whatever else is true, Bradley Manning is responsible for the most significant and valuable leaks since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers. It is a cause for celebration that the US government’s efforts to silence his voice, literally, have now been thwarted. Now, people can and should hear directly from Manning himself and make their own assessment. Whoever made this illicit recording (as well as the FPF in publishing it) acted in the best spirit of Manning himself: defying corrupt, unjust and self-protecting government secrecy rules in order to inform the world about vital matters.

      UPDATE

      The FPF site appears to be down due to excessive traffic, so here is the file of the full, unedited audio recording of Manning’s statement that was posted earlier this morning by FPF on its site and is thus now in the public domain.

      UPDATE II

      Extreme amounts of traffic has taken down the FPF site and may be causing problems with the embedded players I’ve posted. If you’re having problems listening to them here (or seeing them), just wait a bit and they should be working shortly.

      In the meantime, the prior generation’s greatest whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg (who is also an FPF board member), today hails this generation’s greatest, Bradley Manning, in an Op-Ed at the Huffington Post. Writes Ellsberg: “After listening to this recording and reading his testimony, I believe Bradley Manning is the personification of the word whistleblower.” He also makes clear how similar is Manning’s treatment to the treatment to which Ellsberg was subjected. I can’t encourage you strongly enough to read what he has to say.

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Expose Crime

You can learn more about Bradley Manning’s case by visiting the Bradley Manning Support Network.

You can learn more about Bradley Manning’s case by visiting the Bradley Manning Support Network.

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