Monday, June 10, 2013

Dirty Wars chapters 8 and 9-the US Officially Embraces Torture, Stanley McChrystal

Chapter 8 begins describing another bureaucratic battle-this between the FBI and the CIA. Generally, the FBI favored interrogation tactics that were not torture, but parts of the CIA did, goaded on by the Pentagon. It’s important to note not all of the CIA embraced “enhanced interrogation”but generally those people were isolated (or even isolated themselves) or were not promoted. But even with the CIA moving in his direction that wasn’t enough for Rumsfeld, so he looked to programs in the DoD that he thought would be helpful.
These programs included the JSOC, the JPRA, and the SERE. The JSOC was previously introduced, the JPRA is the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. This group was responsible for rescuing military personnel trapped in enemy territory, especially in “denied areas” which knowledge of their presence could cause a lot of problems. JPRA also prepared military personnel for capture by the enemy, this was the SERE program Survival, Evacuation, Resistance, and Escape. The SERE program kept a huge record of torture techniques, going back to the Civil War, and exposed military servicemen to these techniques. Rumsfeld’s idea? To officially use these techniques-“terrorists”remember this is stuff that the worst dictators we know used, that we know at least occasionally killed people-on. I think it’s important to put “terrorists” in quotes. I don’t question that there are people out there that want to do harm to the US, and that maybe it’s appropriate to do large sweeps in suspected areas, maybe it’s ok to take whatever the Pakistan government hands you. A lot of suspects were picked up this way, and I think its reasonable to assume many innocent people, or at least people who were not really that involved and not worth picking up, were taken this way. If you have been paying attention at all to the news at this time (2002-2003) and this chapter makes clear it was obvious that torture techniques were used indiscriminately. That is, if you were unlucky to get picked up, you were put through the mill.
Even if you think torture can be justified-I believe most people would identify torture as not an American value-there is plenty of evidence that torture DOES NOT WORK. Who says it doesn’t work? Is it pointy-headed liberals? Is it those dirty hippy peace activists types? Is it those who are “soft” on terrorism? No, it is veteran interrogators at the FBI, at the CIA. Did they state this clearly and unequivocally to the White House? Yes, yes, did. Did the White House show any sign they took the view of the professional seriously on this matter? No, they did not. They crafted a “torture” memo that basically said if you didn’t kill the person, it was not torture. See, legal! Fixed it for ya as the kids like to say. Congress was “briefed”-even if they were not fully informed I think its clear they didn’t ask any questions, so later they had some wriggle room to claim they didn’t know, in the off chance somebody cared.
I’m not going to describe the torture, which Scahill gives a general description of. All I want to say, if you treat somebody like an animal , you should not be surprised when they, or their family, act like one.
The rest of the chapter discusses the “gray” area of governance for military and intelligence operations. “Covert” operations require permission you might say, “clandestine” operations do not, if said operations are in countries with “anticipated hostilities”. In addition there was conflicting Congressional oversight. R and C of course, saw the whole world as their battlefield, so they used JSOC, which was kind of in-between anyway, and basically did whatever they wanted. But it wasn’t just the CIA and Congress that R and C wanted free of, it was military oversight as well. In essence R and C wanted to have a Special Ops to report directly to them, and to start killing many people right away. As before, there were plenty of military commanders who thought, um, maybe we ought to wait on some intelligence that seems useful, and then go kill lots of people. This was not enough for Rumsfeld, who as always as quick to dismiss anybody who did not agree with him, if you didn’t agree you were gone.  
R and C continued to push for independence, and aggressiveness of action. JSOC was “freed” from military oversight, and began working with an intelligence group known as Gray Fox. Even as Brent Scowcroft (chair of a 2002 commission, former Bush senior official), recommended pushing  more intelligence unit into the CIA, Rumsfeld went the other way.
In April 2002 Project Icon was established, funded by diverting Pentagon funds (not briefed to Congress), later known as Strategic Support Branch or SSB. This group was made up of teams of Special Ops units paired with intelligence personal. Gray Fox and SSB together were in essence R and C’s own army, with Stephen Cambone their main guy. Cambone would be further promoted in 2003 to a position that previously did not exist- undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Again, plenty of professionals in the CIA and military did not think this was a good idea, State department officials noticed a lot of people out of place- R and C did not think they needed to inform ambassadors and the like that operatives were in their cities. As one official says “We know the Geneva Convention was thrown under the bus, so to say, pretty early”. Some officials tried to stay away from it.
Chapter 9 Stanley McChrystal
Chapter 9 is a short bio of McCrystal. He is described as a good solider, a smart one, but also one who knows where the power lies. Actually, the overall description reads like the fawning over General Patraeus. McCrystal is a “warrior scholar” but can relate to his men. He comes off a smart and tough but there is nothing to suggest he possesses any remarkable skills.
The chapter runs through the early part of Iraq War, briefly describing the “leadership” of Bremer, the early, destabilizing decisions of “de-Baathification” and disbanding the Iraq military. “De-Baathification” left out the people most likely to lead the country—it was practically a requirement to join the Baath party if you were to get anywhere professionally. Disbanding the military put thousands of Iraqis out of job and pension-not to mention these were people who might know how to conduct armed resistance?
May 1st-the famed “Mission Accomplished” speech, and a few months later the guerilla insurgency started. Of course the White house tried to claim this was not happening but you can only deny reality for so long. On August 19th, the UN was bombed and most UN personal were gone by the time the UN was bombed a second time Sept 2003.
That same month McChrystal became JSOC commander and was charged with crushing the insurgency. Although Rumsfeld had grand plans for JSOC it became all consumed by fighting terrorism in a “nation that had no AQ presence before US tanks rolled in a year earlier.” The chapter discusses Zarqawi, the infamous deck of playing cards, and the development of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force (HVT).   The chapter introduces William Raven, McChrystal’s right hand man, who ultimately would sustain a major injury and work to vet High Value Targets for JSOC to kill. The chapter ends noting the huge increase in the manhunt list, and “credits” the “improvement” in JSOC to Raven, McChrystal, and Mike Flynn (Flynn was an experienced commander in Afghanistan McChrystal worked with for a short time.)

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