Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Must Read: The Blowback from the Iraq Invasion

Here's a story in The Nation that makes it clear how ugly the decision of Bush to have a "war of choice" and to use "enhanced interrogation" to try and force the truth to bend to what Bush decided "the truth" to be...

The US Soldier Who Committed Suicide After She Refused To Take Part in Torture

Greg Mitchell

September 13, 2010

With each revelation, or court decision, on US torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo -- or the airing this month of The Tillman Story and Lawrence Wright's My Trip to Al-Qaeda -- I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who died seven years ago this week. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what most would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, on September 15, 2003.

Of course, we now know from the torture memos and the US Senate committee probe and various press reports, that the "Gitmo-izing" of Iraq was happening just at the time Alyssa got swept up in it.

Spc. Alyssa Peterson was one of the first female soldiers who died in Iraq. Her death under these circumstances should have drawn wide attention. It's not exactly the Tillman case, but a cover-up, naturally, followed.
Go read the whole article!

And don't forget to read "part two" of this article as well!

What bugs me is that this story, like so many, required somebody to go way beyond the call of duty to force the real facts to the surface:
But in this case, a longtime radio and newspaper reporter named Kevin
Elston, not satisfied with the public story, decided to probe deeper in 2005, "just on a hunch," he told me in late 2006. He made "hundreds of phone calls" to the military and couldn't get anywhere, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request. When the documents of the official investigation of her death arrived, they contained bombshell revelations.
Here is a bit from the article about how this illegal torture was carried out and how others handled it:
Peterson's suicide on Sept. 15, 2003-- reported to the press and public as death by "non-hostile gunshot," usually meaning an accident -- was the only fatality suffered by the battalion during their entire time in Iraq, Williams reports. At the memorial service, everyone knew the cause of her death.

Shortly after that, Williams (a three-year Army vet at the time) was sent to the 2nd Brigade's Support Area in Mosul, and she described what happened next in her book. Brought into the "cage" one day on a special mission, she saw fellow soldiers hitting a naked prisoner in the face. "It's one thing to make fun of someone and attempt to humiliate him. With words. That's one thing. But flicking lit cigarettes at somebody -- like burning him -- that's illegal," Williams writes. Soldiers later told her that "the old rules no longer applied because this was a different world. This was a new kind of war."

Here's what she told Soledad O'Brien of CNN: "I was asked to assist. And what I saw was that individuals who were doing interrogations had slipped over a line and were really doing things that were inappropriate. There were prisoners that were burned with lit cigarettes.

"They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds so that I was the first thing they saw. And then we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood. And it really didn't seem to make a lot of sense to me. I didn't know if this was standard. But it did not seem to work. And it really made me feel like we were losing that crucial moral higher ground, and we weren't behaving in the way that Americans are supposed to behave."

As soon as that day ended, she told a superior she would never do it again.

In another CNN interview, on Oct. 8, 2005, she explained: "I sat through it at the time. But after it was over I did approach the non-commissioned officer in charge and told him I think you may be violating the Geneva Conventions. . . . He said he knew and I said I wouldn't participate again and he respected that, but I was really, really stunned. . . ."

So, given all this, what does Williams think pushed Alyssa Peterson to shoot herself one week after their only meeting? The great unknown, of course, is what Peterson was asked to witness or do in interrogations. We do know that she refused to have anything more to do with that after two days -- or one day longer than it took for Williams to reach her breaking point.
What really bothers me is that the US military pretends to hold itself to a higher standard. Soldiers are told they not only have the "right" to refuse an illegal order, they have a moral responsibility. That is find in theory, but unless you are really strong it is hard to buck the social pressures to conform. You end up with tragedies of people killing themselves because they are being forced to do criminal acts and they don't know how to extricate themselves except through suicide. Tragic!

The proclaimed reason for the Nuremberg trials was to hold senior leaders responsible for their crimes. But Obama (like Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon) continues the long line of Americans covering up crimes of their predecessors. When will the American Nuremberg trials be held to try senior officials in the Bush administration for the horrors of the Iraq war?

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