In July, General David Petraeus was approved as CIA Director by both the Senate Intelligence Committee and then the full Senate, whose vote was an astounding 94-0, astounding because this is a man who was deeply implicated in war crimes, including torture.
While Petraeus’s record on backing both torture and death/terror squads in Iraq had been looked at before, literally no one brought up this record when the Obama administration’s nomination of Petraeus was being sped through the constitutional “advice and consent” process. The failure of any U.S. Senator to ask questions about Petraeus’s record on these matters demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of the two political parties, and even more, of U.S. civil society as a whole. Under the leadership of Barack Obama, torture has not only not been ended, its institutionalization has been solidified from the Bush years.
The dubious Yoo/Bybee/Bradbury OLC memos have been rescinded by President Obama’s executive order, but the underlying structure of the torture program, which continually metamorphizes so that its existence will not be endangered, remains. Now a primary figure involved in the torture program is head of the CIA. These are dangerous times.
What makes them even more dangerous is the extreme complacency and passivity of the U.S. press, blogger community, and human rights organizations, who never raised a peep over the nomination of Petraeus to head the CIA, and who have for the most part let violations of the UN Convention Against Torture treaty, which makes the handing of prisoners over to state authorities who are likely to torture them a crime, become a unremarkable minor detail in their political reporting and campaigning.
Training the Torturers and the Implementation of FRAGO 242
Petraeus was promoted to lieutenant general in June 2004, and was appointed the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq (MNSTC). The MNSTC was organized to train Iraqi Security Forces, with the supposed aim of making them responsible for Iraqi state security. The context was the dismantling of the Iraqi Army under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of L. Paul Bremer. While the CPA was busy privatizing the Iraqi economy, the cobbled-together Iraqi forces were unable to fight the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, and the country was rent by sectarian conflict.
It was also in June 2004 that Fragmentary Order 242 was issued, instructing U.S. forces, as the UK Guardian reported, “not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves members of the coalition. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, ‘only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ’.”
Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the Commander of US ground troops in Iraq, was the likely high official who signed off on this policy, but as the Guardian noted, “Frago 242 appears to have been issued as part of the wider political effort to pass the management of security from the coalition to Iraqi hands.” The policy amounted to turning Iraqi prisoners over to security forces trained by Petraeus’s MNSTC. The Iraqis tortured the prisoners, while U.S. forces were complicit, and if anyone wanted to intervene, the order tied their hands.