Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bush's Iraq - Live Human Skinning 101

The CBC reports that over 170 Sunni detainees were found in an Iraqi cell who appeared to be malnourished and tortured.
Iraqi officials made the announcement Tuesday, two days after U.S. troops surrounded the Interior Ministry compound where the detainees were being held in an underground cell.

Neither the U.S. military nor the Iraqi government would comment on whether the American forces found the cell.

(Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Kamal told CNN:) "I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralysed and some had their skin peeled off various parts of their bodies."

Kamal told Reuters news agency that the treatment was "totally unacceptable."

(emphasis mine)

Totally unacceptable, Kamal? How long did it take you to come to that conclusion? The only time I ever heard about such abominable practice was in a proto-historical account of Mongolian torture methodology used against the Japanese in the 1930s, as told in gruesome detail by Haruki Murakami in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. From Chapter 13:
"They do a small area at a time," said the Russian officer. "They have to work slowly if they want to remove the skin cleanly, without any scratches. If, in the meantime, you feel you want to say something, please let me know. Then you won't have to die. Our man here has done this several times, and never once has he failed to make the person talk. Keep that in mind. The sooner we stop, the better for both of us."

Holding his knife, the bearlike Mongolian officer looked at Yamamoto and grinned. To this day, I remember that smile. I see it in my dreams. I have never been able to forget it. No sooner had he flashed this smile than he set to work. His men held Yamamoto down with their hands and knees while he began skinning Yamamoto with the utmost care. It truly was like skinning a peach. I couldn't bear to watch. I closed my eyes. When I did this, one of the soldiers hit me with his rifle butt. He went on hitting me until I opened my eyes. But it hardly mattered: eyes open or closed, I could still hear Yamamoto's voice. He bore the pain without a whimper - at first. But soon he began to scream. I had never heard such screams before: they did not seem part of this world. The man started by slitting open Yamamoto's shoulder and proceeded to peel off the skin of his right arm from the top down - slowly, carefully, almost lovingly. As the Russian officer had said, it was something like a work of art. One would never have imagined there was any pain involved, if it weren't for the screams. But the screams told the horrendousness of the pain that accompanied the work.

As for Bush and Cheney, do you suppose they will finally shut up about Saddam's torture chambers, and how that is one of the justifications for having launched the war in the first place? I'm not holding my breath. It's this kind of thing I had in mind when I wrote Stoke the Fire. Ugly. Horrifying. So-called civilization.

- 30 -


GoodGrief said...

Have you been reading Dahr Jamail's weblog diary from Iraq? In case you're not familiar, he's an American reporter, who went to Iraq on his own and is not embedded, so is free to report what he's seeing. He wrote about the attack on Fallujah, and it was horrific. Powerful, but - This weeks entry is equally disturbing. In case you're interested, here's the link: http://dahrjamailiraq.com/weblog/
a very poignant example of Burn's Man's inhumanity to man.

John Murney said...

Good article, Scott.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

Good grief indeed.

Cam Strandberg said...

yes, its horrible but whats your point. sadamm likely did the same thing and there was no hope he would ever stop. now, there are forces and agencies in the country who can hopefully put an end to this sort of practice. they're not doing a good job, but hopes at least exists now.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

You been listening to Dick Chaney?
He apparently digs that sort of thing.

Cam Strandberg said...

cheney backs lite torture. sensory depravation, stress positions, psychological stuff, simulated drowning (which yeah, is too harsh) and some other stuff thats not pleasent. however, its not the same as skinning someone or even beating someone.
and its not supposed to be done wantonly either. theres a world of difference between what sadaam huessin did to his citizens, to what the iraqi troops are doing to detainees now and to what dick cheney would like american officers to be able to do.

Scott in Montreal said...

I don't know Milton. I don't have much hope for the U.S. presence in Iraq making things much better. And I just think all torture is inhumane and probably counter-productive to getting good intel anyway. There's also the Geneva conventions. I think it's sad that the United States is allowing fear to over-rule previously held convictions about justice and humanity.

In the Cold War, American ideals took a mighty beating (thinking about U.S. meddling in Chile, Cambodia, Laos, El Salvador and other 3rd World nations), but now they seem to have dissolved away completely. All out of fear. And this all just keeps feeding hatred, and cycling it. It's a very dangerous game that's now afoot. The world needs a hero and we just aren't seeing one these days when we look to America.

Thanks for dropping by. I read your latest post at your site and thought: this is one voice on the Right who at least tries to make an honest argument and think for himself.

Cam Strandberg said...

heheeh i don't even consider myself on the right.
yeah, i hear your point about looking up to america. the abuses at abu gharib and the bush admins lack of clarity and reliance on rhetoric in this whole torture debate have made the situation pretty bad. but i still think a reasoned argument (something which has really been lacking in the press) laid out in the open would be able to help people to see the factors and realities at work here.
i still think its less about fear than a real need to get intelligence. there is a fear in more attacks on US soil (and its more than fear in iraq where the fears are a reality) but its also a legitimate possibility.
as long as the torture is done out in the open and subject to judicial review and all that goes with that (sunset clauses, constant justification, etc) then I think its an unfortunate lesser evil that needs to be applied.
anyways, keep hope! american ideals are not dead yet. the possibility for a better world are possible and america has to take a leading role in striving for that world.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

Have you guys thought of being
reassigned, like back to Langley?

The duck thief said...

And then there's that whole business of white phosphorous.

Cam Strandberg said...

white phosphourous.

but its deeper than that.

i heard the usa was using guns.

the nazi's used guns.

we're through the looking glass here people.

Scott in Montreal said...

Milton, Iraq did not attack your country, or mine. Not with white phosphorous, not with guns, not with bunker-busting bombs... I don't think this whole war is defensible in any way. Sure, there was a worry that Saddam might become a threat, but think outside the box for a minute. There are plenty of disgusting jackasses - some of whom the West props up - who are just as ruthless to segments of their own societies as Saddam was, and just as liable to become a threat to the U.S.A. They weren't attacked, however. If you were an Iraqi, you'd feel picked on and persecuted and betrayed by the United States. If you disbelieve that, then I'm sorry to say you've bought the hype hook, line and sinker.

Cam Strandberg said...

hmmm i gotta disagree. sadamm was a clearly a different threat than any other dictator on the face of the globe. genocide against his own people. invaded another country for no reason other than self gain. launched a pointless war that killed over a billion. totally isolated from any diplomacy efforts simply because all other countries basically hated the guy. had suspiciously been running games on the UN inspection talks for over a decade
i think his continued deception is key for the rationale to go to war. the weapons inspection would never be fully completed and we would never categorically know for certain that he was completely disarmed. as it turns out he was, but for some stupid documents about buying some missiles from north korea and a host of other plans, sadamm (and this is in a post 9/11 world when he must've known that his tricks weren't gonna fly anymore) stupidly put the existence of his country on the the line and lost.
you're right about iraqi's feeling betryed though. the usa owed it to them build a successful new iraq. and so far it just hasn't.

Cam Strandberg said...

diplomatically isloated cause he didn't care at all for the lives of his people. forgot to add that. its important.

Scott in Montreal said...

Um, you might want to check your facts there, Milton. A billion is a bit much, even for a ruthless sod like Saddam Hussein.

Anyway, let's take a step back. In the early months of 2003, Hans Blik (sp.?) and El baradei were in fact allowed in to Iraq to inspect for WMD and were reporting excellent cooperation from Saddam's regime in undertaking their work. They had to bug out before they could finish because the Bush administration was too impatient to get its invasion on.

But what would've happened if Bush and Blair had listened to the bulk of their allies and held off until the inspections could be completed? Well, we can safely say the whole reason for invading Iraq (WMD - as per the UN resolution) would have vanished since we know now for a fact that he didn't have any. Ergo, Saddam was not a threat and Condi's worries about mushroom clouds would've assumedly been laid to rest.

Now I suppose you believe democracy can flourish there by having it shoved down their throats, but I remain skeptical. The most stable democracies have a common historical link: they got there themselves. If it comes from within, it has a better chance of taking hold and stabilizing the society it serves. We will never know if Iraq may've managed it without this war; perhaps I am wrong, but right now it doesn't appear that anything has been improved for Iraqis or U.S. national security; in fact it looks like the pot has been stirred rather viciously by this invasion, with who knows how many chickens waiting in the wings to come home to roost.

Here in Canada we wonder: how will the U.S. get themselves out of this one?

Flow said...

First of all,the United States are part of the UN and they decided to invade Irak even when the UN said they should not.Also,I tought the terrorist threat was coming from Afganistan...not from Iraq.I'm sorry to say that the United States are good at defending countries where they've got something to gain like in Irak for petrolium,in Kuwait....also for petrolium ,in Viet Nam against communism (a big threat to the United States back then) and so on.

When millions of people were being killed in Rwanda,the United States have been asked to help them but the answer was that "they have nothing to gain there".

And for that reason,I'm not afraid about the reconstruction of Irak.They will spend billions and billions to get their hands on the black gold.
Call me a fool but I still belive that Americans are good people...it's the american government (with W of course) and the american multinationals that make them look bad.

Cam Strandberg said...

but you miss the point. the inspections would never have been completed even if they had listened to frances constant complaining.
Blix, Ritter, and ElBaradei have all stated that UNSCOM was fundamentally trapped by Iraq's deceit.
altough, admitedly, all those guys paradoxically hold that the weapons inspection were successful, full iraqi co-operation was never fully forth coming which they all also make quite clear in their writings. i can't understand then who they can justify something a success if the other party was never going to tell us that. i understand that iraq was disarmed, we simply did not know this, and this is the crux of the problem.
Ritter has publicly stated Iraq wanted to hang on to enough documents, brains and militarily usable equipment to be able to restart banned weapons work once inspectors were gone. In doing so, they simply made it look like they had actually had weapons, even if they didn't.
In 'Disarming Iraq' by Blix stated that the main reason why military intervention outpaced diplomacy was iraq's unwillingness to comply to full disclosure. the final UN resolution (1441), that even Blix called a 'final oppurtunity' about diaarmanent, was simply not lived up too. had sadamm fully complied, military intervention would've probabaly been avoided. blix admits this too.
this EBaradei quote is simply the reality. “In all of human history, no civilisation has ever voluntarily laid down its most powerful weapons. It remains to be seen whether ours can be the first.” Iraq proved unfortunetly sometimes we can't even get countries to admit to plans and preparations.

as for your points about nation bulding, again, i disagree. democracy is not being shoved down a countries throat when over half the population turns out to vote. there is obviously something 'within' iraq that wants a voice. there is no cultural elitism in saying that people every where simply would like to have a say in their ruling governments.
as for nation building, germany and japan were essentially built from the ground up. when the eastern blocs fell, yes they did it from within, but american money, support and intelligence all played a role. south africa is the same thing.freedom needs a patron. its that simple. even the american revolution would've been drastically slower and more brutal were it not for French support.

GoodGrief said...

Scott, don't agree with Milton, but agree that it's his right to give his opinion. I would suggest that he read all of Ritter's opinions, as Ritter clearly disagrees with what is happening today, so it's not fair to pick and choose what agrees with one's opinion and ignore the rest. As to Germany and Japan, although they thank the U.S. for their help (and it wasn't just the U.S. - think there were other countries involved), they made their own way out of the morass that their WW2 leaders got them into, so is that really a good argument for Iraq? Don't know, don't care. What is most important is that there are very bad things happening in a country that the U.S. invaded, without provocation. How would Mr. Milton feel if China, for example, felt that the U.S. was run by a paranoid, xenophobic cowboy, who was slowly but surely diluting the rights of his own people, and decided to invade to free those people from his clutches?

Cam Strandberg said...

oh great. you.
i didn't pick and choose ritters arguments. yes, he disagrees with whats happening today and thats precisely what i'm arguing about. he has said that the weapons inspections were working and also that they were held back by iraqi non compliance. what i'm doing is pointing out the paradox of his words. what i'm saying is that i think he's wrong when he says that inspections were working and thier is substantial evidence to back this up. simple as that. this is not misrepresentation.
to say then the iraqi invasion was done without provocation is then to dismiss everything i've written here about the weapons inspections without even offering a reasoned argument in rebuttal. the provocation was in the fact that a dangerous man was not taking a very serious issue seriously. you need to read, argue reasonably and stop the sermonizing.

Scott in Montreal said...

Well Milton, it seems like you've really got to stretch to back up your points, and as you take one step back after another, the argument loses any heft it once had. In the end, is this a war fought over the fact Saddam's capitulation to the UN-backed weapons inspectors was less than total? And if that's the measure of how secure the U.S. needs to feel before invading another nation, how is any other nation supposed to be satisfied with that?

Let's put aside the fact the U.S. has enough nukes to end life on this Earth. You also have enough conventional weaponry to annihilate anyone who looks at you the wrong way, and now we can't trust that you can handle that - you've proven you're willing to go postal based on a gut instinct, without waiting for the facts to come in.

It's like if you pass a guy on the street, and that guy's got a really bad rep, and you think he might be planning to jump you once your back is turned, and maybe he's got something (a knife? a gun? a b-b-box-cutter????) under his coat. Do you have a right to pull out a semi-automatic and just fire away at him after a warning shot? No. You'll be arrested for murder and rightly so.

The onus is on the invader to prove that the actions are absolutely necessary; that they are at mortal risk otherwise. Hence Powell's tall tales in front of the UN Security Counsel. And adding insult to injury (and countless thousands of civilian deaths), Iraq is now in a bigger state of chaos than at any time since WWI.

BTW, goodgrief, thanks - I know you meant well - but I'm okay to figure out who I agree with or not on my own.

Cam Strandberg said...

Don’t equate a tyrannical, genocidal regime and its pursuit for weapons of mass destruction with the known weapons of one of the freest countries on the face of the earth. It’s simply not the same.
I’ve taken no steps back. Yes, the war was triggered by the fact that saddam did not capitulate. Any nations that cannot do this, and especially those with histories like Saddam, do face serious measures. Sanctions, isolation, a host of diplomatic measures. 12 years of this did not convince Saddam to comply. Force as a last resort, was simply needed.
The war was not gut instinct. As I've stated numerous times, and you've yet to seriously argue back against, the inspections were not working. The process would never be complete. The onus to invade, occupy and search (the only way we were ever going to know if the weapons were there or not) was provided within this. When diplomacy expires, force is the unfortunate result. This is a truth, in what I suspect to be your infinite anti-war stance that I suspect you will never be able to accept.
Your guy on the street analogy is somewhat correct. No, you don’t blow them away, but instead of letting someone with a ‘bad rep’, you obtain a search warrant and if they deny you the ability to search, you lock em up and if they won’t go away without a fight, you fight back, win and then lock ‘em away for a long time. Your ‘blow away’ reference I’m sure is in reference to the shameful failures of the occupation, but these failures don’t necessarily remove the original onus to take care of a serial offender. This onus have within it a responsibility to take care of the offenders ‘property’ (to really stretch this bad metaphor), but this is a different discussion than the one we are having about the rationale to go to war.
What more do you propose could’ve been done? Sanctions against a man who commits genocide against his own country and has made every indication that he simply doesn’t care if they live or die? Working with his ‘allies’ (he had none)? Stopping the selling of his number one export like the tainted oil for food program? The French option of a more liberal search regime? You offer criticism without solution and this is surely the road to a more dangerous and deadly future for us all.

Scott in Montreal said...

Yeah, I think we're going to disagree. I thought I was clear in stating that the fact no WMD turned up - including no evidence of any programs to develop them in the last ten years or more - is pretty damning right there, and the inspections, had Bush allowed them to run their course, would surely have borne this out. That snuffs the argument for invasion right there (at least, the type of argument that keeps a war legal by UN and ICC standards).

Saddam's regime was completely contained and posed no threat to the U.S. nor its neighbours in the region. The genocide you continue to cite is unfortunately something the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations at best, turned a blind eye to; at worst, were complicit in.

Per military historian Gwynne Dyer:

"...the United States was closely allied to Saddam Hussein when he was committing the worst atrocities against the Iranians and the Kurds. The Reagan administration saw the revolutionary regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran as a far greater threat to US interests, and when Saddam's war against Iran started going badly it stepped in to save him.

"It was US intelligence photos from spy satellites and AWACS reconnaissance aicraft that provided the raw information about Iranian positions, and US Air Force photo interpreters seconded to Baghdad who drew Saddam the detailed maps of Iranian trenches that let him drench them in poison gas. It was the Reagan administration that stopped Congress from
condemning Saddam's use of poison gas, and that encouraged American firms and NATO allies to sell him the appropriate chemical feedstocks plus a wide
variety of other weapons.

"It was the US State Department that tried to protect Saddam when he gassed his own Kurdish citizens in Halabja in 1988, spreading stories
(which it knew to be false) that Iranian planes had dropped the gas. It was the US that finally saved Saddam's regime by providing escorts for tankers carrying oil from Arab Gulf states while Iraqi planes were left free to attack tankers coming from Iranian ports. Even when one of Saddam's planes mistakenly attacked an American destroyer in 1987, killing 37 crew-members, Washington forgave him. So the US doesn't want any of Saddam's crimes that are connected with the Iran war to come up in his

"His invasion of Kuwait in 1990 is equally problematic, because it was Washington that urged Iraq's Shias and Kurds to rebel after Saddam lost
that war -- and the subsequent massacres happened because George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, would not commit US troops to stop them."

What more could've been done? Patience. The elements of democracy were taking root (thinking principally of the onset of mass media such as al Jazeera and the inherent democratizing effect that can have). Iraq was more secular under Saddam, had an improving literacy and education rate, and gave its women the closest thing to equal rights of any country in the Middle East. Now it is (in a best-case scenario) on the road to becoming another fundamentalist theocracy that I fear will eventually suffocate what little democracy they have seen to date, similar to today's Iran. This war may have put back their chance for a stable democracy for another generation or two.

Yes, I offer criticism without solution. But I did not create this situation - U.S. policy had a lot more to do with it. I'm more concerned with the precedent that was set. The concept of pre-emptive war is a bad seed that can be used as a pretext for naked aggression by anyone. And they can point the finger to this action and say: "If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us."

And when you say America's weapons are not the same, yes, I am quite aware of that. As I pointed out, the U.S. has amassed enough fire-power to destroy all life on this planet. And its leadership has shown a willingness to wage war based on a mere possibility of a vague threat, while lying to the world about the veracity of this perception. Given that, is the fact that your country is "free" supposed to help me sleep better?

You guys have all the cards; that's empire, baby.

Cam Strandberg said...

why do you suppose the inspection would've borne fruit? how can you possibly say this when saddam, right up tehe very end, when US soldiers were parked right outside and war was only a breath away, he still did'nt comply with UNSCOM.
your pitiful cry of democracy through tv is not something that the world can afford to take seriously. not with a leader like saddam. democracy was not taking root. saddam had simply killed or expelled those who posed a serious opposition.
i will repeat. IN THE DECISION TO WAGE WAR IT DOES NOT MATTER THAT NO WMD TURNED UP BECAUSE WAR WAS THE ONLY WAY WE WERE EVER GOING TO FIND THIS OUT. this is the crux of our argument, and all this time, you've done virtually nothing to answer it.

Cam Strandberg said...

there has been evidence saddam was up to illegal weapons program activity.


Ivan Prokopchuk said...

Listen to Eric Margolis.
Then say it on:
Israel had a powerful enemy.
Had to be whacked. Good timing, with administration full of Neocons. (And I'm not anti-Israel),
It's just realpolic.

Scott in Montreal said...

The Washington Times is owned by the Moonies and I don't take that rag seriously, so I'm not surprised you're putting a link to them up to buttress your point. Anyway, I think for me it's time to put this one to bed. We're only talking past each other at this point. At least we hopefully understand each other's viewpoint a little better. Cheers.

Cam Strandberg said...

way to give up. still, i understand. your views make no sense and you won't admit to it.
nice work.

Anonymous said...

Milton/Cameron: In my opinion, you are a dilettante, but you already know that. Your arguments are specious, and you gloat when you think you have won a point. You make me sad. There are millions of people dying every day because of a lot of countries' inaction or hostile intervention (Iraq war, AIDs, Louisiana, Mississipa etc Katrina recovery, Tsunami in Asia, Darfur etc) and you want to play the "I'm smarter than you" card? Please, tell me, what kind of a human are you? Never mind, it's not worth listening to. When I find you beside me and my kids, raising money for charity, helping to build a home through habitat for humanity, sorting food at a food bank, or helping out at a homeless shelter, or a hospice or trying to raise funds? Or perhaps when I hear about you joining the U.S. military to go to Iraq, then, I will apologize. Sir, I don't think you have any moral authority. My father, my grandfather, my uncles fought in wars that were real (as I'm sure your ancestors did). They didn't want to go to war, but they did, because the freedom of the entire world was at stake. They didn't go to war for money or the greed for oil/empiricism. They went for what was right and moral. You, sir, demean their sacrifices by your attitude. Hope you are proud of yourself. I'm sure your parents and ancestors are.
If you are a person who is just trying to stimulate discussion, then perhaps you could change your approach. There is nothing to be gained in trying the "My dog is bigger than your dog" and misquoting articles (in some cases of dubious origin).
I come to Scott's blog because I enjoy his opinions, and I hope you do as well, but I find your comments to be disingenious. If you have a point to make, then do so, but please leave the unsavoury attitude out of it. It only makes you look like a pathetic fool, and your point gets lost.

Gazetteer said...

Wow, Scott.

A shadow troll.

You must be doing something right.

Keep it up.

Cam Strandberg said...


Scott in Montreal said...

Milton "Slash" Cameron - I'm having a hard time taking you seriously when you can't even settle on what your name is - I find your argument is founded on speculation and impressions more than fact. For example, when you cite sources like Blix or Ritter, you focus on the asides rather than the thrusts of their positions. That weakens your argument rather than supporting it. Then you get all huffy when this is pointed out. That's why I concluded I've gone as far with this debate as I can with you.

Anyway, keep an open mind and keep honing your writing and debating skills. The blogosphere is a good practice ground for you and I both.

Shellby said...

the excerpt is from "The Wind Up Bird" I am reading that right now.