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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Torturing as a way of life

The US military in Iraq is young, dumb and clueless, according to a senior British officer:

"The US Army in Iraq has been accused of cultural ignorance moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micro-management and unwarranted optimism in a magazine published by the army.

"The scathing critique of the US Army and its performance in Iraq was written by a senior British officer.

"In an article published this week in the army magazine Military Review, Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was deputy commander of a program to train the Iraqi military, said American officers in Iraq displayed such 'cultural insensitivity' that it 'arguably amounted to institutional racism' and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency."

We are now discovering the way in which this "liberating" army has fought this war. Spc. Tony Lagouranis (Ret.) was a U.S. Army interrogator from 2001 to 2005, and served a tour of duty in Iraq from January 2004 to January 2005. He was stationed at Abu Ghraib then joined a task force roaming the country looking for intelligence. He recently told PBS Frontline of the "culture of abuse" throughout Iraq. It was acceptable, condoned or ignored to treat Iraqi detainees however a soldier wished:

"The worst stuff I saw was from the detaining units who would torture people in their homes. They were using things like…burns. They would smash people's feet with the back of an axe-head. They would break bones, ribs, you know. That was serious stuff...I remember one guy who was forced to sit on an exhaust pipe on a humvee, and he had a pretty huge blister on his leg. Another guy, I don't know what they used to burn him, his legs. He was blindfolded so he didn't know either, but it looked like it might have been a lighter. He had some pretty big, [some] smaller blisters, but a lot of them."

This is the true face of the Iraqi occupation.


Blogger Wombat said...

Winning hearts and minds hey AL?

And yet we keep being told to support the troops. Yes I'll support troops who conduct themselves appropriately, but it's clear this is based on a culture that made the troops believe this was acceptable behavior.

All the while, the was appoologists continue to maintain that the violence in Iraq has nothign to do with the occupation.

Given this climate, it wouldn't be hard to imagine a few of the victinms actually being killed if they resisted or fought back.

And for those who insist that the US administers justice for wrongdoing, I would ask how many of these "bad apples" will see themselves being brought to account?

Thursday, January 12, 2006 11:38:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Lagouranis explictly talks about the ways in which the Geneva Conventions were regarded as a joke and rountinely ignored. More and more Iraqis know this, suffer this and are fighting this. Hence (some aspects) of the insurgency. There is a price to pay for torturing citizens of a country.
As for bringing them to account, in time, probably some. But the internet and faster communication today allows more of the world to truly see what US 'liberation' is about.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 11:42:00 am  
Blogger orang said...

Hey, we DELIVER!

"The worst stuff I saw was from the detaining units who would torture people in their homes. They were using things like…burns. They would smash people's feet with the back of an axe-head. They would break bones, ribs, you know....."

They should franchise this, it's like Dominos pizza. I wonder if you can order a selection.

(why do they hate us)

Thursday, January 12, 2006 5:57:00 pm  
Blogger CB said...

After reading the paper, not just the bits The Age selectively quoted, you would find that Brig Aylwin-Foster does indeed see some issues with the first use of kinetic opposition to the insurgency, when several coalition allies such as UK and AUS would more than likely have used a psychological approach.
The decision by the US Army to revert to force in the majority of instances and the cultural thinking behind this decision is what the paper is about. Using this paper as evidence that the US policy in Iraq is wrong, and to bolster your case for immediate withdrawal of all troops is foolsih and definitely AGAINST the thrust of his argument.
Combating counter insurgencies is a delicate art, balancing the indiscriminate use of force by the terrorists against the undermining of their cause via political means. The US Army has commanders which have successfully integrated a public image of assistance along with a military threat of force, notably the areas around Mosul and parts of western Iraq. The UK contingent with it's vast Northern Ireland experience has quite successfully kept the threat of violence to a minimum in the southern Iraq delta region, through active patrolling and continual community liasion, actions which the ADF have continued with success. It's clear that some US Army commanders don't see this as a viable method to defeat terrorism.
Brig Foster goes to some lengths to detail the quite commendable work various US commanders have done, but is understandably concerned that some of their peers are failing to see the bigger picture.
Not suprisingly, this issue is being commented on by those here who couldn't understand an exit strategy if it was lit up with lights.
Stick to hating yourself Loewenstein. It's the only thing you're good at.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 7:00:00 pm  
Blogger orang said...

compared to the US style anyone is "successful".
Give up, we're not welcome, let's just fuck off out of there.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 8:05:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

cb, you couldn't make your comment without a childish remark at the end, could you?

As for an exit strategy, do you support the withdrawal of some US ground troops (for domestic political reasons) and an intensification (long underway) of the post-war air war? Is this the "delicate art" you are talking about? Perhaps you are referring to the My Lai strategy, or the recklessness and arrogance of last week's bombing of an Iraqi home in Baiji.

Bombing things - and people - from the air has failed to stop the insurgency so far, just as it has failed in US wars of the past. What will change that? And what is fuelling that insurgency anyway?

And if that isn't the exit strategy you are alluding to then what is it? Blindly supporting Washington, which, as Paul Dibb has argued, is becoming increasingly bogged down in its Middle East nightmare? Watching out for Shrub's big picture? And where is that Iraqi army, anyway? Enlighten us.

You reckon Loewenstein and his readers are ignorant. Show us how you aren't, or cut the crap.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 10:00:00 pm  
Blogger CB said...

As long as Dibb is arguing the point, then hell, why have your own opinion?

Thursday, January 12, 2006 10:14:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

What an excellent response, cb. More than I expected. ;-)

Thursday, January 12, 2006 10:18:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Yeah what excellent the coalition has done, and to top it off, Dubya has decided to cut spending on recosntruction. Great news seeing as reconstruction never even got to first base, the money going to provide security instead.

Until now, progress has been largely measured by rebuilding what the coalition managed tro blow up. In the end, the coalition wont even end up fixing what it detroyed.

As least you gotta take your at off ot to Bush. He consistently fails upward.

Friday, January 13, 2006 12:42:00 am  
Blogger neoleftychick said...


Two free elections attended by an overwhelming majority of the population. Saddam gone. If only the rest of the Muslim world could catch up. hopefully things will speed up when israel takes out Irans nuke-making operation. ;)

Friday, January 13, 2006 1:23:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...


For someone with intelligence, you don’t seem to want use it as often as you should. Two free elections that went where exactly? The January 2004 elections were about the Shiites voting overwhelmingly for US withdrawal and not getting their wish. The candidates were to scared to even be identified on TV. The US occupation remained.

Then there were elections over a constitution that no one got to read and which proved absolutely meaningless, given that a constitution means nothing in the absence of security in Iraq. The most recent elections will result in either a fragmented Iraq (and possible Civil war) or one under theocratic rule, which pretty much means that any elections that follow with no be free, or be subject to one party rule.

Yes, the rest of the Muslim world has watched and collectively rolled their eyes at the whole pathetic joke.

As for Israeli’s taking out Iranian nukes, what’s the likelihood that we will be provided any evidence? If the Iranians are making nukes, it will not be using nuclear reactors, but uranium enrichment facilities deep underground. The Iranians put them deep enough to be safe from conventional bunker buster bombs, which means nuclear weapons. Great so the Israeli/US forces get to nuke Iran. Where do you think that will leave the Middle East? Do you think that Russia, who has vowed to protect Iran, will sit by the way side and do absolutely nothing?

What do you think the Shiites in Iraq will do. Ignore the whole thing while they stay glued to their plasma TV’s?

It’s one thing to make childish remarks about towel heads. It’s quite another to cheer on a situation you obviously don’t understand.

Friday, January 13, 2006 2:12:00 pm  
Blogger neoleftychick said...


I have never made claims of profound insight. But what I have shown is that at least on this site, I am the most knowledgable poster. God knows how the rest of you can be so full of self-righteousness when even I can show you up.

Friday, January 13, 2006 3:07:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...


Bless your heart sweetie. The only thing you have demonstarted in spite of an casutric sense of humour, is that you are a prime example of how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and that you are utetrly full of yourself.

It's so easy I know, to convince yourself that you are knowledgeable when you obsessess with only one side of a complexed issue.

Even in the areas you consider yourself knowledgeable, your arguments have been demonstrably disected. Evidenced by the fat that you quickly turn from an impassioned debater into a feral cat as soon as holes start being picked in your flawed raional.

Then again, maybe your just being sarcastic and I am completely underestimating you.

Friday, January 13, 2006 3:32:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Neo: "But what I have shown is that at least on this site, I am the most knowledgable poster."

Not to mention the most humble.

Friday, January 13, 2006 7:17:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

I like this bit:

"I have never made claims of profound insight. But what I have shown is that at least on this site, I am the most knowledgable poster."

Talk about a contraditction in terms. How does one manage to possess such a wealth of knowledge, and yet continue to lack insight at the same time?

Iraq has sent one clear message to the rest of the Middle East. Failure to develop nuclear arms is an invitation for the U.S. to engage in a little "regime change."

As for the elections being some panacea, how about a reality check? After every "milestone," from the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons and the capture of Saddam himself through the "handing over" of sovereignty and various elections, things have only gotten worse. Remind me why it should be different this time?

Knowledge is no guard against stupidity.

Saturday, January 14, 2006 4:25:00 am  

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