Morning Report 8/3/05’Fear Up’: It’s Our Bag


In Iraq torture case, the treatment worked, but the patient died

Unhappy camper: No. 12 in the 20-step “Interrogation Process” show-and-you-will-tell used to train U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib. See it for yourself on page 20 of a 49-page PDF posted by the Center for Public Integrity as part of the Taguba report.

No wonder the Bush regime fights religiously to keep its activities secret. This morning’s Washington Post story by Josh White peers into court proceedings against soldiers in the case of captured Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who was stuffed inside a sleeping bag during a November 2003 “interrogation” and beaten to death.

Hell of a read, and quite a statement about good ‘ol American ingenuity. As White writes:

The sleeping bag was the idea of a soldier who remembered how his older brother used to force him into one, and how scared and vulnerable it made him feel. Senior officers in charge of the facility near the Syrian border believed that such “claustrophobic techniques” were approved ways to gain information from detainees, part of what military regulations refer to as a “fear up” tactic, according to military court documents.

The circumstances that led up to Mowhoush’s death paint a vivid example of how the pressure to produce intelligence for anti-terrorism efforts and the war in Iraq led U.S. military interrogators to improvise and develop abusive measures, not just at Abu Ghraib but in detention centers elsewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Mowhoush’s ordeal in Qaim, over 16 days in November 2003, also reflects U.S. government secrecy surrounding some abuse cases and gives a glimpse into a covert CIA unit that was set up to foment rebellion before the war and took part in some interrogations during the insurgency.

As you might guess, the senior officers in this case are doing the testifying, and the grunts are the ones on trial for murder.

In fact, as the Post points out, the senior officers have said the “claustrophobic technique” was OK to use and quite effective, although in this case, Colonel David A. Teeples testified:

“My thought was that the death of Mowhoush was brought about by [redacted] and then it was unfortunate and accidental, what had happened under an interrogation by our people.”

Not only are the grunts the fall guys, but the CIA’s considerable role in this deadly caper has been covered up, even to the extent of falsifying an autopsy report.

When we most need Gil Grissom these days, we get General Paul Mireau from Paths of Glory.

In the case of this Iraqi general, one of the accused grunts’ lawyers, William Cassara, has told reporters:

“The interrogation techniques were known and were approved of by the upper echelons of command of the 3rd ACR. They believed, and still do, that they were appropriate and proper.”

The Bush regime has already said, and continues to say, that the abuses at places like Abu Ghraib and Gitmo were the work of “rogue soldiers,” instead of a systemic problem—an argument I put the lie to more than a year ago.

Others have done much better jobs on that score. And today, the Post‘s White nicely ties the general’s death shortly after dawn on November 26, 2003, with former chicken-choker Lynndie England‘s playground in Baghdad:

The sleeping-bag interrogation and beatings were taking place in Qaim about the same time that soldiers at Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad, were using dogs to intimidate detainees, putting women’s underwear on their heads, forcing them to strip in front of female soldiers and attaching at least one to a leash. It was a time when U.S. interrogators were coming up with their own tactics to get detainees to talk, many of which they considered logical interpretations of broad-brush categories in the Army Field Manual, with labels such as “fear up” or “pride and ego down” or “futility.”

Other tactics, such as some of those seen at Abu Ghraib, had been approved for one detainee at Guantánamo Bay and found their way to Iraq. Still others have been linked to official Pentagon guidance on specific techniques, such as the use of dogs.

No documents have been found—yet—that authorize Lynndie’s “masterbating” technique. We can guess, however, that it was some higher-up’s stroke of genius.