After months of bad press, here at last was an act of genuine humanitarianism by U.S. troops in Iraq that could have been trumpeted to the skies: a unit of National Guard troops – part-time citizen-soldiers from Oregon – rescuing a group of prisoners from sadistic torture by the security forces of the newly "sovereign" Iraqi government. Yet the incident was buried by American brass, who repudiated their own soldiers – and backed the Iraqi torturers.
It happened on June 29 – the first full day of Iraqi "sovereignty" -- when a Guardsman on routine patrol in an observation tower near a Baghdad prison saw Iraqi guards beating bound and blindfolded prisoners with metal rods, The Oregonian reported last week. The soldier called in the atrocity, and men from his unit were ordered into the prison. There they found dozens of prisoners – including children – bloodied, bruised, shot, starving, crammed into concrete pens, lying in their own filth. Torture implements were scattered through the compound, said the paper: "rods, rubber hoses, electrical wires and bottles of chemicals."
The Guard troops – many of whom said they'd been shamed by the American atrocities at Abu Ghraib – disarmed the Iraqi security men and began giving first aid, water and food to the prisoners. They questioned the mysterious Iraqi civilian in charge – an "obese man" in swank mufti. He told them there'd been no torture at all – and anyway, these prisoners were just street scum: "thieves, users of marijuana and other types of bad people," according to the written account of the incident provided by eyewitness Captain Jarrell Southall and corroborated by the other soldiers.
There was no claim that the prisoners were insurgents or terrorists. Most of them had been rounded up in the poorest sections of Baghdad during broad, brutal "security sweeps" ordered by Iyad Allawi, the former terrorist chieftain and Baathist Party enforcer now serving as the unelected overseer of the Bush Regime's Iraqi plantation. (In this, the prisoners doubtless shared the fate of their brethren in Abu Ghraib, where the Red Cross says that 70-90 percent of the thousands of captives taken by the Americans were innocent of wrongdoing.)
Having stopped the torture, the Oregon soldiers asked for further orders: what should they do now? The request was relayed up far up the chain of command, and the answer came back from on high: Go away – and give the prisoners back to the men who were torturing them. Give back the weapons, give back the torture tools, stop helping the prisoners, mind your own business.
And that was it. The American troops, outraged but obedient, withdrew. The prisoners – the wounded men, the bleeding children – were bound up again and shoved back into the stinking pits. Why? It's simple. Because the Iraqi security goons were doing exactly what George W. Bush wanted them to do.
One year ago this month, we noted here that Bush had begun hiring agents of Saddam's murderous security service, the Mukhabarat – "an instrument renowned across the Arab world for its casual use of torture, fear, intimidation, rape and imprisonment," as the Washington Post described it then. Top Bush officials confirmed they were secretly putting dozens, perhaps hundreds of Saddam's most vicious killers and rapists on the U.S. payroll, the Post reported.
We must admit to shockingly childish naiveté in that earlier column. Although the Eye did voice some mild criticism of Bush's Mukhabarat embrace ("a monstrous copulation of rapacious conquerors with bloodthirsty scum," was the demure phrase), at the time we assumed Bush was simply looking for local proxies to do his dirty work, so American soldiers wouldn't have to. Now, of course, we all know that Bush and his top legal advisors had already spent months concocting devious "justifications" for a systematic torture regimen to be used by U.S. forces throughout a global gulag of hidey holes, secret prisons, holding pens and concentration camps. The Abu Ghraib crimes that so shamed the Oregon soldiers are just one small chunk of a giant dungheap that is very slowly but surely oozing into view – and creeping up toward its Oval originators.
So Bush obviously didn't want the Mukhabarat as a proxy for the dirty work; he was glad – even eager – to have Americans taint themselves with such evil. Saddam's men were not substitutes but reinforcements, allies, comrades-in-arms in the noble crusade to put a more pliable strongman on Iraq's throne. Of course, the American military presence in Iraq – planned years ago by Bushist cadres – is wildly unpopular among the conquered. Thus for Bush's great work of looting and dominance to continue, the Iraqi people must be beaten down – with metal rods, if necessary.
And that's what it's all about: loot. Bush's own auditors confessed last month that at least $8.8 billion in Iraqi oil money controlled by the Americans is now unaccounted for, Colonel David Hackworth reports in DefenseWatch. This secret siphon – doubtless sloshing into offshore accounts around the world, as Hackworth notes – is on top of the tens of billions in tax dollars openly pumped to Bush's corporate cronies and campaign donors.
But that's just the short-end money. Getting a stranglehold on world oil supplies through the strategic Iraqi bottleneck – the ultimate object of the whole blood-soaked exercise – will be worth trillions as reserves begin running out in the coming decades. For Bush is not just thinking of himself, you see; no, he's fighting to secure the future for generations of corrupt elitists yet unborn.
And for that, he needs terrorists, torturers, ruthless goons – not a bunch of Oregon boy scouts gumming up the works with acts of mercy.