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by Stephen Lendman
America wages wars dirty. They're all unprincipled and lawless. It's official policy. Exceptions don't exist. No-holds-barred barbarism is longstanding.
Rule of law principles don't matter. They never did. Modern technologies make today's wars worse than ever. All forms of brutality are commonplace.
On March 6, London's Guardian discussed the Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centers. General David Petraeus was directly involved.
So was Col. James Steele. He's a retired special forces expert. He's a Central America "dirty wars" veteran.
His Iraq mandate included establishing detention/torture centers. Innocent victims were subjected to monstrous brutality. More on that below.
America's entire chain of command is culpable. The buck goes all the way to the top. Bush administration officials bear main responsibility. Obama continues what he began.
They're unaccountable so far. They authorized the worst of what went on. Iraq reflects what's ongoing in all direct and proxy US war theaters.
Professor Stjepan Mestrovic's a valued Progressive Radio News Hour guest. His book titled "The 'Good Soldier' On Trial: A Sociological Study of Misconduct by the US Military Pertaining to Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq" deserves careful reading.
It explains what everyone needs to know. He documented disturbing evidence of "US government mistreatment of its own soldier-prisoners as well as foreign 'detainees.' "
Iron Triangle soldiers were unjustly convicted. Irresponsible officials hung them out to dry. They did so to protect higher-ups and themselves. Military justice is sorely lacking.
US soldiers followed orders. They had no other choice. Disobedience assures court-martials. Imprisonment follows.
In May 2006, Operation Iron Triangle targeted suspected Al Qaeda fighters.
US soldiers were accused of killing four Iraqis. They did so near Samarra. Col. Michael Steele gave direct orders. "Kill all military age males" on sight, he said.
He violated international, constitutional, US statute, and military laws. They're clear and unequivocal.
US Army Field Manual 27-10 incorporates Nuremberg Principles. Paragraph 498 says any person, military or civilian, who commits a crime under international law bears full responsibility.
Paragraph 499 defines a war crime. Paragraph 509 denies the defense of superior orders as justification for committing crimes.
Paragraph 510 denies "act of state" justification to absolve them.
These and other provisions apply throughout the chain of command. Commanders and civilian bosses bear full responsibility.
Mestrovic documented hundreds of lawless incidents. Brigade commander Steele followed orders. His mandate was killing every military-aged Iraqi on sight.
Unconscionable war crimes were committed. He was never charged. Higher-ups weren't implicated. Four low-ranking soldiers were for them.
They were tried, found guilty, or pleaded so as charged. They never had a chance. "Law enforcement agents lied and tricked their own soldiers," said Mestrovic.
They weren't read their Miranda rights. They were confined in 7 x 7 cells. They were kept there 23 hours a day. Doing so violates army standards.
Required autopsies weren't performed. Nor were forensic tests. Sworn testimonies were shredded. Others weren't passed up the chain of command.
Vital information was suppressed. Kangaroo proceedings assured convictions. Hanging judges presided. Treatment reflects Bradley Manning's ordeal.
America commits mass murder, torture, and other unspeakable atrocities. It betrays its own at the same time. Justice is systematically denied. Media scoundrels suppress what's most important. They do so consistently.
Most Americans know nothing about Operation Iron Triangle. They know little about unconscionable Iraqi war crimes. They persist in all US war theaters. They reflect longstanding policy.
Fire-bombings, so-called humanitarian ones, search and destroy missions, free-fire zones, execution squads, kill anything that moves orders, take no prisoners, torture, and other atrocities reflect official US policy.
Rules of engagement are shrouded in secrecy. Iron Triangle trials prohibited discussing written ones. Soldiers explained orders saying "kill every military-aged male" on sight. Missions prioritize doing it. It's standard practice. It's lawless. Low-ranking soldiers don't dare disobey.
Col. Steele didn't testify. No one forced him. His silence reflected complicity. Low-level soldiers were charged. Guilt by accusation followed. Culpable officials got off scot-free. It's standard policy. War crimes ordered by higher-ups are suppressed.
Doing so violates Justice Robert Jackson's opening Nuremberg remarks, saying:
"The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched."
No commissioned officer faced war crimes charges in Iraq. None were charged in Afghanistan or in connection with Washington's war on Libya and Syria. Occasional "little people" are prosecuted. Doing so absolves higher-ups.
The Guardian called Col. James Steele "America's mystery man in Iraq." Donald Rumsfeld chose him. At issue was organizing paramilitary operations against Sunni insurgents.
Retired Col. James Coffman worked with him. They got millions of dollars to establish detention/torture centers.
Coffman reported directly to Petraeus. He arrived in June 2004. He helped organize and train Iraqi security forces.
Steele served in Iraq from 2003 - 2005. In 2006 he returned. He reported directly to Rumsfeld. Allegations made against him were damning.
US and Iraqi witnesses provided evidence. He and US advisers were implicated. For the first time, human rights abuses were cited. Petraeus was linked through an adviser.
Coffman was his "eyes and ears out on the ground. They worked hand in hand." They partnered in war crimes.
Iraqi General Muntadher al-Samari worked with them. "I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centers," he said.
"They knew everything that was going on there - the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture."
Detention centers had interrogation committees.
"Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators," said al-Samari.
"This committee (used) 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."
Petraeus, Steele and Coffman knew everything going on. Torture was systematic and brutal.
"I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library's columns. And he was tied up, with his legs above his head. Tied up. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten."
New York Times photographer Gilles Peress visited a commando center. He met Steele in Samarra. "We were in a room in the library interviewing Steele, and I'm looking around I see blood everywhere," he said.
Reporter Peter Maass was there. While an alleged jihadi was being interrogated, he heard "terrible screams, somebody shouting: 'Allah, Allah, Allah!' But it wasn't kind of religious ecstasy or something like that. These were screams of pain and terror."
Steele refuses to be interviewed. Coffman denies involvement. A Petraeus spokesman said:
"During the course of his years in Iraq, (he) did learn of allegations of Iraqi forces torturing detainees. In each incident, he shared information immediately with the US military chain of command, the US ambassador in Baghdad….and the relevant Iraqi leaders."
He was directly involved. He knew everything. So did Steele and Coffman. They committed war crimes. They remain unaccountable. So do higher-ups involved.
Rumsfeld personally decorated Steele. He did so for services performed in Iraq. His job was overseeing detention/torture centers.
He lives in Texas. He gives motivational speeches. He discusses counterinsurgency operations in conflict areas.
He avoided prison where he belongs. So did Coffman, Petraeus and others up the chain of command to the top.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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