March 19, 2006
Nasty Ass Military Area...
...otherwise known as Camp Nama. The NYT has the details here.
Task Force 6-26 was a creation of the Pentagon's post-Sept. 11 campaign against terrorism, and it quickly became the model for how the military would gain intelligence and battle insurgents in the future. Originally known as Task Force 121, it was formed in the summer of 2003, when the military merged two existing Special Operations units, one hunting Osama bin Laden in and around Afghanistan, and the other tracking Mr. Hussein in Iraq. (Its current name is Task Force 145.)
Vomit, a few kicks in the stomach, and a spot of fainting due to gentle spinal taps, shall we call them? John Yoo would be proud. No organ failure, you see. And regardless, "military necessity" would have allowed for a lost kidney or two, if need be. Remember, this was an elite unit of Rumsfeld's post 9/11 Pentagon meant to be a model for intelligence gathering units. Guess the brutish tactics employed weren't that effective, however. Zarqawi, like UBL, is still on the loose.
On June 26th 04, Stephen Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, wrote his deputy William Boykin:
Get to the bottom of this immediately. This is not acceptable. I want a fuller report of action taken, etc., by Wednesday. In particular I want to know if this is part of a pattern of behavior by TF6-26. SC
What did William Boykin report back to HQ? (The same Boykin who once memorably recounted his confrontation with a Muslim Somali warlord thus: "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this"). Well, with gung-ho, primitive evangelical fervor of this stripe, one suspects he'd err on the side of an all-clear for his merry band of Christian warriors, no? And so, drum-roll please...surprise! He told Cambone he had found no pattern of behavior of misconduct at TF 6-26.
A couple things to point out. This was after Abu Ghraib, which probably explains Cambone's so urgent note (before Abu Ghraib, one suspects, Cambone likely wouldn't have shown so much concern, eh?...) 34 troops have been disciplined, nine of whom received "written or oral counseling". How about Court martials? Just five Army Rangers, who received jail time of 30 days to 6 months, and reduction in rank. Two of these will be discharged after serving their sentences.
But here's the thing, gang. These guys are mostly scapegoats, who thought because of the wink-and-nods from higher ups that they were using authorized techniques ("No Blood, No Foul", went the Paintball 'Regulations' at Nama, that well encapsulate the grunt on the ground's view of acceptable tactics). Conditions were so bad at this camp that DIA's Defense Human Intelligence Sevice pulled out their personnel, and as early as December of 2003 Colonel Stuart Herrington, a retired Army intelligence officer, warned in a confidential memo that medical personnel reported that prisoners at Camp Nama had injuries consistent with beatings. He concluded: "It seems clear that TF 121 needs to be reined in with respect to its treatment of detainees."
But nothing happened, for months and months. Why? Because the Pentagon exerted no leadership on such matters until forced to under the weight of the international opprobium resulting from the media maelstrom post the Abu Ghraib disclosures. Let's recap: this Task Force was specifically formed after 9/11 as an elite force meant to gain intelligence from HVT's and engage in sophisticated counter-insurgency against key insurgents and terrorists. These guys were to be the best of the best, the guys chasing Osama and Zarq. Because of John Yoo's legal memoranda, and the laissez-faire posture from civilian and military higher-ups, people went all cowboy in the field, and the result were mega-embarrasments like these.
Meantime, the Nasty Ass Military Area (cute) was relocated to Balad in the summer of '04, as the Cambone's of the world, post-Abu Ghraib, probably decided it was best to close it down. DIA is sending "deployable Humint teams" to supplement Special Ops efforts, and the CIA is conducting debriefs with the task force again, so one hopes interrogation techniques have improved. But does anyone really know? Does anyone have any faith people are still not being crudely and covertly beaten, under the imprimatur of authority of President "We Do Not Torture" Bush--in part given the watered-down signing statement accompanying the McCain Amendment?
We don't, really. And so, among other reasons, these are very sad times. We have a Secretary of Defense who has brought dishonor on our Armed Forces, as the Gitmo interrogation tactics he personally approved migrated to war theaters where thing got, well, nastier. Meantime, John Yoo gets feted doing the rounds of think tanks like AEI and Heritage, which is, quite frankly, stunning (yet another one for the time capsule). Only the grunts suffer, for the purposeful sins of people like Yoo and Rumsfeld, or the sins of omission of people like Bush (ie, his apparent cluelessness about what occurs under his Commander in Chief authority). Just a few more bad eggs, you see, these not on the night shift at Abu Ghraib, but rather the day shift at Camp Nasty, it appears.
And still no accountability from on high. Make no mistake, this is an immense disgrace, and one of the darkest chapters in U.S. military history. And the person who directly presided over it remains in office. Rumsfeld must resign, or be pushed out. And soon. Of course, I'm not alone in this. For Christ's sake, if Fred Barnes is pushing for Rummy to step down, who else is left (save uber-apologists like Hugh Hewitt or sad, rabid nutters like Charles Johnson?). And don't miss this must-read call for his resignation either from retired Major General Paul Eaton, who was charged with training of the Iraqi Army from '03--04. Read the whole thing, as they say.
Posted by Gregory at March 19, 2006 04:55 PM
About Belgravia Dispatch
Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.
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