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American War Crimes: Amnesty unveils shock 'waterboarding' film

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  • Zafar Khan
    Amnesty unveils shock waterboarding film By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent Tuesday, 22 April 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , May 25, 2008
      Amnesty unveils shock 'waterboarding' film
      By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent
      Tuesday, 22 April 2008


      An American expert in torture techniques has denounced his government for allowing "waterboarding" to be practised against terror suspects, just as a graphic advertisement showing the brutal reality of the technique is unveiled to British cinema-goers.

      Malcolm Nance, who trained hundreds of US servicemen and women to resist interrogation by putting them through "waterboarding" exercises, demanded an immediate end to the practice by all US personnel.

      He said: "They seem to think it is worth throwing the honour of 220 years of American decency in war out of the window. Waterboarding is out-and-out torture, and I'm deeply ashamed President Bush has authorised its use and dragged the US's reputation into the mud."

      Mr Bush faced criticism recently when he vetoed a Bill that would have outlawed such methods of "enhanced interrogation" – the White House refuses to describe it as torture.

      Mr Nance said: "You have a purpose-built table with straps in a pattern so that people can be strapped and unstrapped quickly. The head is strapped down in such a way so they cannot resist the water. The head is elevated so the water goes down the oesophagus.

      "The water is poured very carefully over the nose – you keep a constant pour. You are drowning in water but you don't have the ability to hold your breath. You feel the water going in, you understand that water is filling your lungs."

      Mr Nance, who is now an independent consultant, said the technique was also futile, as well as barbaric, as the prisoner would say anything to survive – regardless of its truth.

      Amnesty International is leading the campaign to persuade the US to abandon the practice – a form of torture used as long ago as the Spanish Inquisition – and is stepping up its efforts with the release of a graphic and disturbing advertisement.

      The broadcast begins with images of glistening clear liquid, suggesting it could be promoting a new brand of vodka or gin. But the camera pulls back to show water is being poured over the face of a desperate man strapped to a table.

      Kate Allen, the UK director of Amnesty International, said: "Our film shows you what the CIA doesn't want you to see – the disgusting reality of half-drowning a person.

      "For a few seconds, our film-makers did it for real. Even for those few seconds, it's horrifying to watch. The reality – in a secret prison with no one to stop it – is much, much worse."

      The advertisement can be seen at www.unsubscribe-me.org from today and at 50 cinemas from next month onwards.

      To see the advert, goto:

      Waterboarding is torture - I did it myself, says US advisor
      By Leonard Doyle in Washington
      Thursday, 1 November 2007


      When the US military trains soldiers to resist interrogation, it uses a torture technique from the Middle Ages, known as "waterboarding". Its use on terror suspects in secret US prisons around the world has come to symbolise the Bush administration's no-nonsense enthusiasm for the harshest questioning techniques.

      Although waterboarding has been considered torture for over a century and the US military is banned from using it, controversy over its continuing use by the CIA may be about to derail the appointment of President Bush's candidate for US Attorney-General.

      Michael Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York and a veteran of several al-Qa'ida trials, was questioned by a Senate committee on Tuesday and refused to say whether waterboarding was illegal.

      Instead, he called the technique "repugnant to me" and promised to investigate further if he was confirmed in the job. He explained that he could not say yet whether the practice was illegal because he had not been briefed on the secret methods of US interrogators and he did not want to put the CIA officers who used it in "personal legal jeopardy".

      Even though Congress banned waterboarding in the US military in 2005, it did not do so for the CIA. As a result, Mr Mukasey told senators, it was uncertain whether this technique or other harsh methods constituted "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment. His answers did not satisfy the Democrats, however, and his approval now hinges on whether he is willing to say the torture method is against US law.

      In a further embarrassment for Mr Bush yesterday, Malcolm Nance, an advisor on terrorism to the US departments of Homeland Security, Special Operations and Intelligence, publicly denounced the practice. He revealed that waterboarding is used in training at the US Navy's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School in San Diego, and claimed to have witnessed and supervised "hundreds" of waterboarding exercises. Although these last only a few minutes and take place under medical supervision, he concluded that "waterboarding is a torture technique – period".

      The practice involves strapping the person being interrogated on to a board as pints of water are forced into his lungs through a cloth covering his face while the victim's mouth is forced open. Its effect, according to Mr Nance, is a process of slow-motion suffocation.

      Typically, a victim goes into hysterics on the board as water fills his lungs. "How much the victim is to drown," Mr Nance wrote in an article for the Small Wars Journal, "depends on the desired result and the obstinacy of the subject.

      "A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience to horrific, suffocating punishment, to the final death spiral. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch."

      The CIA director Michael Hayden has tried to defuse the controversy. He claims that, since 2002, aggressive interrogation methods in which a prisoner believes he is about to die have been used on only about 30 of the 100 al-Qai'da suspects being held by the US. Meanwhile, a CIA official told The New York Times waterboarding had only been used three times. The Bush administration has suggested that the interrogation of al-Qai'da's second-in-command, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was a success thanks to the technique, and used this to justify continued aggressive interrogations of suspects in secret CIA prisons.

      While US media reports typically state that waterboarding involves "simulated drowning", Mr Nance explained that "since the lungs are actually filling with water", there is nothing simulated about it. "Waterboarding," he said, "is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. When done right, it is controlled death."

      Mr Nance said US troops were trained to withstand waterboarding, watched by a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a backup team. "When performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – it is torture, without doubt," he added. "Most people cannot stand to watch a high-intensity, kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American."

      Mr Mukasey's nomination goes before the Senate next week. Three Democratic presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, have already said they will not support him. However, the White House said yesterday that it did not believe his nomination was in jeopardy.

      'I felt I was drowning and I was in terrible agony'

      Henri Alleg, a journalist, was tortured in 1957 by French forces in Algeria. He described the ordeal of water torture in his book The Question. Soldiers strapped him over a plank, wrapped his head in cloth and positioned it beneath a running tap. He recalled: "The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn't hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save me from suffocation. In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably. 'That's it! He's going to talk,' said a voice.

      The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed."

      From: Alleg, Henri, The Question, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln: 2006; original French edition © 1958 by Editions de Minuit

      Afghans Probe US Use of Depleted Uranium
      IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
      Sat. Apr. 19, 2008


      KABUL — The Afghan government said Saturday, April 19, it will launch an investigation into reports on the use of depleted uranium by US troops during the invasion of Afghanistan.
      "We have decided to do a study to see what is going on," Faizullah Kakar, Afghan deputy public health minister for technical affairs, told Reuters.

      "We will take samples of soil, rocks, water in different areas where the war had taken place in the past and look in the same area to see if there is an excess of malformed babies.

      US forces heavily bombed parts of Afghanistan, particularly the mountainous region of Tora Bora in the east, during the invasion of Afghanistan.

      Since then, several cases of malformed babies were reported in the heavily bombed areas.

      Some reports attributed the malformed babies to the use of depleted uranium by US troops.

      Depleted uranium is a heavy metal used in some weapons that can pierce armor. It has small levels of radioactivity associated with it.

      The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the ruling Taliban movement and its ally Al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York.

      Seven years after the US invasion, Afghanistan is still so destitute and undeveloped that most inhabitants have no central heating, electricity or running water with many civilians killed in indiscriminate US or NATO air strikes.


      Kakar said that the US had not told the Afghan government of using depleted uranium during the invasion.

      "But my source said it was used," he said, adding that the study would decide whether the radioactive material was used or not.

      "It's then that we can tell you what is going on. But until then it is still speculation.

      "In Afghanistan, we have so many problems with nutritional deficiency, like folic acid. So it's difficult to tell if it's due to depleted uranium or due to some nutritional problems or some other genetic issues."

      But the Afghan government, which largely relies on Western aid and troops, still needs to find ways to fund such a study.

      The US monthly magazine Baltimore cited in December 2001 reports that Washington has used depleted uranium in Afghanistan.

      It also said that the US has used depleted uranium against Iraq in the first Gulf War in 1991 and against Yugoslavia in 1999.

      'I thought I could handle anything. I was wrong'How did a well-meaning 26-year-old woman from Virginia end up in Abu Ghraib, taking photographs of her colleagues as they tortured Iraqi prisoners? In a remarkable extract from their powerful new book, Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris explain how the reservist became numb to death and abuse

      Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris The Guardian, Saturday May 3 2008


      A moment with: Errol Morris/film director
      Last updated May 21, 2008


      Errol Morris is arguably the most thoughtful and provocative documentary filmmaker working in America. In "A Brief History of Time," "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control," "The Fog of War" and his new film, "Standard Operating Procedure," Morris brings a rare intelligence to his investigations, and great compassion and dignity to his subjects.

      In "Standard Operating Procedure," the former private detective investigates prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. "To think that this happened because of a few rogue soldiers flies in the face of just overwhelming evidence," argues Morris. "This is not a political debate, this is not left versus right. We're talking about evidence here."

      Morris, who came through Seattle in late April, was measured but passionate while discussing the film, which opened last Friday.

      On Abu Ghraib:

      Abu Ghraib was a hellhole for everybody. It was bedlam. Iraqi police who were ex-Fedayeen, on the take, unreliable and in some instances murderous. Overcrowding, thousands upon thousands of prisoners so the guards were outnumbered a hundred to one. Rioting. Mortar attacks. Insane.

      On the photographs of prisoner abuse:

      It's not just that the photographs direct us in a certain way, but they actually hide things from us. They make us think that we know a story when in fact we don't know the story at all, or we know the wrong story. Megan (Ambuhl, former MP) has that great line: "You don't see what's outside the frame." The sad part is you don't see what's outside the frame and sometimes you don't even see what's inside the frame. And I think you can generalize to: You don't see nothin'!

      On the photographs of Lynndie England with the prisoners:

      I've often imagined, when (Charles) Graner was taking those pictures, of his 90-some-odd pound, 20-year-old girlfriend holding that leash, that the prisoner known as Gus, that in some very deep sense he was re-enacting American foreign policy.

      On getting his subjects to talk about Abu Ghraib:

      I worked as a private detective years ago and I was starting one of the first cases I worked on. I said, "Who should I interview first?" And my boss said, "You should always pick the people who have been fired because they are always willing to talk." (Former Brig. Gen.) Janis Karpinski was fired and demoted by Bush. We did a 17-hour interview over two days where Janis Karpinski started out angry and got angrier and angrier and angrier.

      On Lynndie England:

      She uses an expression near the end, "It's drama, it's life," as if she's taken the two aspects of what's going on. Somehow I feel them as part of my filmmaking as well. I find that last speech that Lynndie England gives so powerful and so disturbing and so unbelievably sad.

      On his interview subjects speaking directly to the camera (and to the audience):

      Eye contact is powerful. It's not as though someone has to stare you down, but when they do make eye contact, when they look away and then they make eye contact, it is a very dramatic moment.

      On the controversy of using "reenactments" in his film:

      I think what is dishonest and wrong is to pass off a reenactment as reality or to blur the line between reality and reenactment. I have illustrations, taken from the things that people say. So when (former MP Tony) Diaz says to me, "A drop of al-Jamadi's blood fell on my uniform," I had this one moment shot in ultra-slow motion with a thousand-frame-per-second camera. It's not reenacting anything, it's bringing you into that moment in his interview.

      On the power of imagery:

      We're surrounded with a visual glut of information. And part of that feeling that you're at sea is part of what I do, and it makes you think. If it makes you think about images and what we take to be an image and how we look at an image and what is true and what is false and what is misleading ... I've done something, maybe.

      -- Sean Axmaker

      Latest Abu Ghraib film exposes little


      Review: A real-life horror film


      US forces release Iraqi photographer after two years without charge
      Ian Black, Middle East editor The Guardian, Thursday April 17 2008


      US forces yesterday released an Iraqi photographer who had been held without charge for two years on suspicion of aiding insurgents in a case that highlighted the dangers facing the media in a war zone.

      Bilal Hussein 36, who works for the Associated Press news agency, had been in US custody since being detained in Ramadi in April 2006. He was freed under an amnesty by the Iraqi government.

      Hussein, smiling and apparently healthy, was handed over at a checkpoint in Baghdad and reunited with relatives.

      "I have spent two years in prison though I was innocent," he said. "I thank everybody." The photographer, who shared a Pulitzer prize, was freed after the US decided he was no longer a threat. It had described him as a "terrorist media operative" who was alleged to have possessed bomb-making materials and conspired with Sunni insurgents to photograph explosions directed at security forces.

      Reporters Without Borders urged the US to free the Sudanese Sami Al-Haj, an Al-Jazeera cameraman held in Guantánamo Bay since 2002, and the Afghan journalist Jawed Ahmad, held in Afghanistan.

      In 2006 US marines entered Hussein's house to establish an observation post and allegedly found bomb-making materials, insurgent propaganda and a surveillance photograph of a US military installation.

      Many of the 23,000 detainees in US military custody in Iraq have not been charged but are deemed a security risk. Hussein is one of several Iraqi journalists who have been held without facing trial. Reuters journalists have also been detained for months and released without charges.

      AP reported that Hussein was alleged to have had contacts with the kidnappers of an Italian citizen, Salvatore Santoro. In December 2004 Hussein photographed Santoro's body with two masked insurgents standing over it. He maintained he was one of three journalists who were stopped at gunpoint by insurgents and taken to see the body.
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