Monday, August 08, 2005

School for Scandal: The "Torture Manual" Defense

Wise man William Blum takes on the Bush gang's all-purpose excuse when confronted with charges of torture in the Pentagon Archipelago. From Blum's latest Anti-Empire Report (not yet on line, but check out his website, Killing Hope):

"It is important to note that al Qaeda training manuals emphasize the tactic of making false abuse allegations."

This is now the official and frequent response of White House, Pentagon, and State Department spokespersons when confronted with charges of American "abuse" (read: torture) of prisoners, and is being repeated by many supporters of the war scattered around the Internet.

It can thus be noted that White House, Pentagon, and State Department training manuals emphasize the tactic of saying "It is important to note that al Qaeda training manuals emphasize the tactic of making false abuse allegations," when confronted with charges of American torture of prisoners for which the spokespersons have no other defense.

It is equally important to note that these sundry spokespersons never actually offer a precise quotation from any terrorist training manuals, of al Qaeda or not. The one instance I've been able to find of US government officials referring to a specific terrorist training manual in the context of torture, is a referral to the so-called "Manchester Manual", a manual found on the computer of a suspected terrorist in Manchester, England in 2000. In the references to torture, in the portions of the manual that have been made public, there is certainly no clear, unambiguous directive for making false allegations of abuse, much less an emphasis on such.

The manual, apparently written in the 1980s, says the following about torture: "Each brother who is subjected to interrogation and torture, should state all that he agreed upon with the commander and not deviate from it." ... "Security personnel in our countries arrest brothers and obtain the needed information through interrogation and torture."

In Lesson 18, explicitly cited by the US government officials, we find: "1.At the beginning of the trial, once more the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security [investigators] before the judge. 2.Complain [to the court] of mistreatment while in prison. 3. Make arrangements for the brother's defense with the attorney, whether he was retained by the brother's family or court-appointed. 4.The brother has to do his best to know the names of the state security officers, who participated in his torture and mention their names to the judge. [These names may be obtained from brothers who had to deal with those officers in previous cases.]

All words in brackets were bracketed in the original; some may be translator's comments. Inasmuch as only selected portions of the manual have been made public by the Bush and Blair administrations it can not be determined in what way the deleted sections might put the White House/Pentagon/State mantra into question. For example, in lesson 18, part 1, what does "once more" refer to? Some previous relevant passage which is being withheld from the public? And how does "proving that torture was inflicted on them" square with "the tactic of making false abuse allegations"?

...In any event, the question is largely academic. We have the numerous statements of American prison guards, other military personnel, and Pentagon officials, all admitting to dozens of kinds of "abuse" in US prisons in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan; so many ugly stories. We have as well the Abu Ghraib photos. And we have the well-documented phenomenon of CIA "rendition", flying kidnapped individuals to many countries known for their routine use of torture. None of this comes from al Qaeda training manuals.