Pentagon’s link to Iraq torture centers revealed

Pentagon’s link to Iraq torture centers revealed

Pentagon’s link to Iraq torture centers revealed

Iraqi detainees rest their hands on razor wires in Abu Ghraib prison. The Pentagon sent two veterans to oversee Iraqi units that set up torture centers. AFP photo

The Pentagon sent two retired colonels to oversee Iraqi commando units that set up secret torture centers to get information from insurgents in 2004, according to British daily The Guardian.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered Col. James Steele, a 58-year-old veteran, to travel to Iraq and assist in organizing sectarian paramilitary commando forces tasked with crushing the Sunni insurgents who were resisting the U.S.-led occupation, an investigation by the daily and BBC Arabic shows.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centers. Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, and was assigned to organize and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005 and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.

‘Horrible kinds of torture’

Coffman described himself in an interview with the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes as Petraeus’ “eyes and ears out on the ground” in Iraq, the daily reported.

“They worked hand in hand,” said Gen. Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the commandos were being set up. “I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centers. They knew everything that was going on there ... the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture.”

Al-Samari also gave detailed information about how the interrogation system worked. “Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee,” he said. “Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee would use all means of torture to make the detainee confess, such as using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.”

The investigation was sparked by the release of classified U.S. military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where U.S. soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centers run by the police commandos across Iraq. 

The army private, Bradley Manning, arrested for involvement in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history, pleaded guilty last week. He said the U.S. forces he was a part of had become “obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists.”