The Next Step: No Taxes For Torture
The Next Step: No Taxes For Torture
To Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Howard Dean, Out of Iraq Caucus:
As the Democrats struggle to define their next step after the President's veto, I would like to suggest an additional approach to those under discussion: end US taxpayer support for sectarian police state actions carried out by branches of the Iraqi government.
I propose an amendment to a forthcoming military appropriations bill:
- Banning or suspending any funds for training, advising and equipping official Iraqi units carrying out sectarian killings, torture, secret detentions on a sectarian basis, or ethnic cleansing in violation of human rights standards and treaty obligations such the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR]
- Specifically banning or suspending U.S. funding of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, U.S. Task Force 6-26 at Camp Nama detention site and any other U.S.-funded entities advising, training, equipping or deployed with Iraq ministries or security forces identified as persistent human rights violators by qualified agencies including but not limited to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq [UNAMI].
- On human rights grounds, explicitly reject the "Salvadoran model" in training and counter-insurgency plans for Iraq, both at present and as American combat troops are withdrawn.
If there is a coming battle over "benchmarks," Democrats should focus attention on whether the U.S.-supported Baghdad regime is capable of progress on ending sectarian killings, torture, mass detentions and ethnic cleansing, or whether it an un-reformable American-assisted sectarian police state. It appears that the Democratic position is to continue funding thousands of American trainers after the withdrawal of most combat troops, a path that will integrate our government with a sectarian regime harboring torture, killing of civilians and ethnic cleansing in Iraq.
While it is true that all sides are committing human rights violations in Iraq, the U.S. government is funding and backing only one side, the side that is in power and responsible for policing, prisons, the judicial system, and the armed forces. There is no question that the U.S. is backing a sectarian state dominated by Shi'a and Kurdish parties. Perhaps 90 percent of the army is Shi'a, and the 7,700 members of the paramilitary "public order brigades" are all Shi'a. [The New York Times, Mar. 7, 2006]. In response to the CIA installing a Sunni as director of the Iraqi intelligence services, the Shi'a parties have established a massive, parallel and shadowy sectarian intelligence agency serving the state on their own. As the Baker-Hamilton Report firmly stated:
[the Iraqi National Police] routinely engage in sectarian violence, including the unnecessary detention and targeted execution of Sunni Arab civilians...the police are organized under the Ministry of Interior, which is confronted by corruption and militia infiltration." [p. 10]
The most recent report of the UNAMI carefully notes a pattern and practice of such violations, including:
- refusal of the Iraqi Ministry of Health to provide required access to mortality rates for this period;
- apparent lack of judicial guarantees in the handling of suspects arrested in the context of the Baghdad Security Plan;
- no explicit measures guaranteeing even minimal due process rights;
- possible collusion between armed militia and Iraqi Special Forces in raids, and failure to intervene against kidnappings;
- alleged killing of civilians in operations conducted by U.S. forces jointly with Iraqi armed forces or security personnel;
- detention and killing of academics who in some cases have been held in custody of US/MNF forces;
- detentions without trial and infringements on freedom of the press in Kurdistan.
The U.S. defines its role as protecting and fostering respect for human rights by the Iraqi security forces it is training, funding and equipping. It appears that the U.S. has been directly involved, however, in tolerating torture and other violations. As the general in charge of training Iraqi security forces, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said in 2005, Iraqi "cultural practices" condone forced conventions and other abuses:
we are fighting in a very harsh environment...these guys are not fighting on the streets of Bayonne, New Jersey. [ABC, Dec. 13, 2005]
Even assuming that the U.S. role is benevolent, however, it is time to recognize the U.S. has failed. As the UNAMI report concludes, the Iraq authorities:
have yet to demonstrate the political will to hold accountable law enforcement personnel suspected of involvement in torture and ill-treatment and other abuses of authority, [citing] the Ministry of Interior's al-Jadiriyya and Site 4 being a case in point.
At of March, there were 17,898 Iraqis being indefinitely interned in the custody of the US/MNF, out of a total population of detainees of 37,641 - 3,000 of them as a result of the Baghdad Security Plan launched in February. Without qualification, the UN report points out that:
the current legal arrangements at the detention facilities do not fulfill the requirement to grant detainees due process.
Anecdotal media reports repeatedly reinforce the impression of a U.S.-funded Shi'a police state:
- for the abuse of detainees in "Hotel California" at Camp Nama under Task Force 6-26, see The New York Times, Mar. 19, 2006
- for paramilitaries under the Interior Ministry "nearly all accused of tortures and illegal killings", see The New York Times, Mar. 7, 2006
- for Baghdad secret prisons and torture centers, see UNAMI report, Nov. 1-Dec. 31, 2006.
- for ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad, see The New York Times, Dec. 23, 2006
- for U.S. advisers teamed with the Wolf Brigade [death squad], see The New York Times, May 22, 2006
- for an eyewitness account of this "all happening under the eyes of US commanders, who seem unwilling or unable to intervene", see BBC report, Nov. 7, 2006.
- for 705 inmates detained in a space for 76 during the current surge, see The New York Times, Mar. 29, 2006.
- for advocacy of the "Salvadoran model", see testimony of Kalev I. Sepp, adviser to the Iraq Study Group, and Congressional testimony of Gen. Peter Pace, in Los Angeles Times, Mar. 12, 2007.
Tom Hayden is a former state senator and leader of Sixties peace, justice and environmental movements. He currently teaches at Pitzer College in Los Angeles. His books include The Port Huron Statement [new edition], Street Wars and The Zapatista Reader.
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