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Pentagon used "dirty wars" tactics in Iraq



The Guardian and BBC Arabic revealed a link Wednesday between former CIA chief David Petraeus and Iraqi torture centers during the US's bloody occupation of the country.

Former special forces officer Colonel James Steele, known for his training of El Salvador militias, was sent to Iraq in 2004 to fight the insurgency using tactics he employed in the Latin American country. Steele was hand-picked by then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Steele trained government-sanctioned militias in El Salvador who were guilty of atrocities such extrajudicial executions, torture, and other human rights violations in their fight against anti-government guerrillas

In Iraq, Steele and special adviser to Petraeus Colonel James Coffman worked to establish a ring of detention centers in areas with high levels of “Sunni insurgency”. In an interview with US military paper Stars and Stripes Coffman described himself as the “eyes and ears” of Patraeus, who was General at the time.

In the documentary, Iraqi General Mundadher al-Samari, who aided Steele and Coffman in setting up the special police commandos said: "I never saw [Steele and Coffman] apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there ... the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture."

"Each [interrogation committee] was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts,"he added.

In one instance, Samari witnessed a 14-year-old boy who was tied to a column with his legs over his head whose body was turning blue.
“At the time, I just felt like everybody knew and nobody cared that there was torture going on,” explained Army Medic Neil Smith who was stationed near one of the detention centers in Samara.

“Petraeus told me personally that he believed very, very strongly in the commandos and thought the commandos were successful and wanted them to become bigger, stronger, more prevalent in the fight against the insurgency,” says journalist Peter Maass, who interviewed Petraeus.

General Adnan Thabit, head of the special police commandos, defends against accusations of abuse. “...They used to cut themselves and blame us. James Steele wouldn’t remain silent about wrongdoing,” Thabit said in the documentary.

The Bush administration has denied allegations that the US directly supported widespread torture practices in Iraq. In 2004, leaked photographs of nude prisoners enduring various forms of torture sparked mass protests across the Arab world, but the administration dismissed the incident as an aberration.

The guards’ behavior at Abu Ghraib “went against everything that they’re taught,” Rumsfeld said a day after the reports were published.

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