“Bending” Iraqi detainees to the US will

The commander of US detention facilities in Iraq, Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, on Tuesday told a group of military bloggers that the US is now holding 25,000 detainees there. He also, more scarily yet, said that the military has activated programs with the detainees designed to “bend them back to our will.”
This language does not make it sound like a program of friendly persuasion. It makes it sound like highly coercive brainwashing. And it seems it is being practised with particular energy on the “about 840-something” detainees who are minors.
That is a shockingly high number of youthful detainees. (We can note that the US and Somalia are the only two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.)
Stone confirmed reports that some of the detainees are as young as 11 and 12 years old:

    now, the trend is towards the youth. And you know, if they’re 11 years old and 12 years old and 13 years old, we tend to see them, the psychologists tend too see them as, you know, kids that, you know, are — can be told to do anything and they’ll go do it. The older ones, the 15, 16, 17-year-old ones, you know, they’re the harder nuts. And again my numbers are going to be a little bit off, but 50 to 60 of those we’ve been able to actually get criminal court hearings against.

Many, many aspects of what Stone says are truly outrageous. (Indeed, his entire discussion there constitutes a very important document of the US “counter-insurgency” mindset at work in Iraq.) Detaining children… using the fact and conditions of detention to try to brainwash people and/or as hostages in a cynical political game… trying to use coercively applied interpretations of “religion” in this brainwashing effort…
Mainly, I wanted to blog this– despite the horrendous time-crunch on my book deadline– because what Stone describes his units as so hurriedly trying to do in Iraq is all very similar indeed to what the Brits were trying to do with “Operation Pipeline” during their brutal, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to quell the Mau-Mau rebellion in Kenya 50 years ago. As I wrote about here— PDF– about 18 months ago.
Interestingly, Stone presents a large part of his effort as very humane, and almost similar to “social work” (Operation Pipeline was also in its time publicized as having a “rehabilitative” intent.)
Stone also writes about how enthusiastic Iraqi Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi has become about the “educational” (i.e. mostly brainwashing) parts of the detention plan.
Well, maybe running a Pipeline-like detain-and-brainwash operation in Iraq will win the US a few extra months for Washington’s occupation of the country. Maybe not. It will almost certainly, however, sow additional trauma amongst everyone who takes part, both detainees and detainers, so from every point of view it is an extremely tragic episode.
But it won’t materially affect the ultimate fate of the US occupation there. Ending the occupation remains the prime responsibility of all Americans. We need to do it sooner rather than later and in a way that reduces to an absolute minimum both the conflict levels as we withdraw and the conflict levels within the Iraq that we leave behind. With wise diplomacy that is still possible– though of course nothing can bring back to life the many thousands who have died there in the 54 months of this senseless war to date.

14 thoughts on ““Bending” Iraqi detainees to the US will

  1. John C.

    Presumably, you’ve noted the connection between this story and the one covered by Scott in the preceding post. The current Orwellian regime uses prisons, at home and abroad, as a great laboratory for the testing and refinement of its most extreme thought control techniques, which it hopes and intends to roll out to the general population in the near future. Our prisons have become the universities and technical colleges of the lower classes – a system in which the average black or hispanic inner city youth can expect to spend 4-10 years refining his education or learning a new trade. Until the public school system can be entirely abolished or brought under the control of the Christian-military complex, prison re-education offers the best opportunity to turn otherwise rebellious young men into footsoldiers in the global war on the working class.

  2. edq

    I read this article yesterday; I also found it pretty disturbing.
    I have to wonder what it means to “bend” Iraqi minds to accept the U.S. occupation? How distorted does a person become to accept an occupier that doesn’t care about “losing” 20 billion dollars of their money, has no scruples about fomenting sectarian strife, has caused the deaths of more then a million of their countrymen and displaced even more, and destroyed their cultural heritage?
    This seems to me like a typical plan for a colonial war such as in Kenya; how legal is this treatment of Iraqis? How many of these prisoners have actually been convicted of anything to begin with?
    ************************
    I came across another very disturbing item several months ago. Rahul Mahajan mentioned this in his “Empire Notes” blog on July 16:
    “And an article (in the LA Times) about the Haditha massacre trials mentions the testimony of Marines about the practice of “dead-checking” – if you see a wounded man, check if he’s dead and, if not, put a few more bullets in him. Although this procedure violates the Geneva Conventions, the article claims, it is explicitly taught at boot camp and in pre-deployment training. The Village Voice had an article about it in 2004, after the second assault on Fallujah, but you will look in vain in the mainstream press for any other references.”

  3. bevin

    What is noteworthy, apart from the implied cruelty, is the crassness of this business. These are evidently people with no critical faculties, nobody questions the morality/utility/practicality of imprisoning children.
    The entire story of child soldiers has obviously washed over them, they were probably watching movies or making popcorn when that came on TV, without leaving a mark.
    What we are dealing with here are very stupid people, from a society in which idiocy is prized and exemplary morons are fast tracked to the top.

  4. Salah

    Our prisons have become the universities and technical colleges of the lower classes –
    And those academic in those universities and technical colleges from where granted their degrees?
    “bend” Iraqi minds to accept the U.S. occupation?
    Make their life as Hell, put more concert blokes where visa required to pass between blocked groups, bombs the oil pipelines and lat the oil goes to water supplies and farms, bobs civilians by 2x500Kg bombs at 3am morning over their homes, and so on on…on.

  5. JHM

    There is a transcript of the whole show, and there are lots of GOP/DOD gems in it beyond what Walter Pincus wrote up in the news story.
    For instance, their Gen. Stone would probably deny any analogy with that other news story about an alleged secret GOP religious reading list for Homeland prisons because “I don’t run prisons; I run detention facilities.”
    And the man evidently expects to be facilitatin’ detentions for quite some time to come, withdrawal or no: “Now, on adults, you know, I’m not driving my decisions on capacity. I have submitted and designed two new facilities, which have been funded by — well, all the way up through DOD, over to Congress, and Congress has funded them. So I’m building two brand-new facilities, one in the Baghdad area and one in Ramadi, and we’ve just broken ground.”
    If you take an interest in Islám, Gen. Stone as Muslim theologian — no mere amateur Qur’án reader, he! — is a delight. If you take an interest in Green Zone native politics, Gen. Stone has lots to say about M. Táriq al-Háshimí, who seems, however, to be the only collaborationist politician he knows at all.
    If you take an interest in how GOP and DOD are niche-marketing their aggression and occupation policy, the way the event was conducted is fascinating in itself. (Mr. Pincus may have slipped a little here: only four tame bloggers asked Stone any questions and got their names into the transcript, but how can one be sure that the other fifty-six invitees did not attend but remain silent?)
    One of the bloggistas remarks that Gen. Stone is up to such wonderful things in the former Iraq that it’s a pity that the news doesn’t get out better. Well, Mr. Pincus has tried to do something about that for them, has he not?
    If I may editorialize a little, it’s a great pity that the whole business seems bound to drop out of sight like a rock, with JWN the only echo to it that I’ve noticed. Praise to both, plus an I. F. Stone Prize for Walter Pincus! (Wasn’t WP the most dangerous American WMD sceptic back in 2002-03? A major national asset, plainly.)

  6. Shirin

    Wasn’t WP the most dangerous American WMD sceptic back in 2002-03?
    No, that would be McClatchy. The WP, like nearly all the MSM, was far better at producing Bush regime stenography than journalism.

  7. salah

    As kids, we learn very early on in school and at home that we are to be obedient and never to question “God, Our Country, or Family.” We have been taught to believe that these three entities are too be trusted above all else.
    WE-as INVADERS, are the infestation to the BODY-IRAQ. Sure, we may use our military might to convince ourselves that we can win this WAR. But they (Iraqis) will and are prepared to die, before allowing invaders to come to their land and change their way of life. It is as it should be, it is a foundational principle.
    We should revisit our selected President’s speech and declare victory as he expressed, “Mission Accomplished”. In his own famous words, “All major military operations will now cease.” Declare victory and leave!
    James H. Allen
    Well siad.

  8. Susan - NC

    It seems those kids are in US run prisons for setting bombs and acting as lookouts for the “insurgents”…. and they are doing it for money, in order to feed their families.
    It would be much more fruitful to let them out of prison and give their parents decent paying jobs. But then, who has any sense or decency in this administration?
    I agree with this: “society in which idiocy is prized and exemplary morons are fast tracked to the top”
    We like to elect them to office, and the elected officials in the USA do reflect our native population to a large extent. Sadly.

  9. JHM

    But they (Iraqis) will and are prepared to die, before allowing invaders to come to their land and change their way of life. [And that] is as it should be, it is a foundational principle . . .
    Rather risky stuff, ain’t it? One might almost infer that the late Saddám was the logical outcome of umpteen millennia down from Sumer and Akkad of “their way of life” and also the sole possible “foundational principle” for any genuinely Iraqi future revival of the former Iraq!
    But what do I know absolutely for sure beyond “God knows best” about the Predestinated Fate of All Mesopotamia? Nothing worth mentioning!
    “Better death than innovation!” is all very well in its old-fangle way, I suppose, maybe, but if THAT attitude is to be accounted specifically Iraqi, then, why kindly account me Queen Marie of Roumania!

  10. John C.

    “These are evidently people with no critical faculties”
    Bevin – it has yet to be determined whether critical faculties are an evolutionary advantage or disability.

  11. salah

    Americans have an increasingly clear picture of what is happening in Iraq, and what is needed to resolve the situation. But, clarity brings questions as well as answers. An 18-year-old kid off the streets of New York or a farm in Georgia can be trained as a Marine in 13 weeks, so why don’t we have robust military and police forces in Iraq after two and a half years of training?
    The Marine knows who his government is and what he is fighting for. The Iraqi doesn’t.
    IRAQ WAR POSITION PAPER
    http://www.floridaveteransforcommonsense.org/Positions.html

  12. JHM

    Ending the occupation [by the GOP of the former Iraq] remains the prime responsibility of all Americans.
    Now THAT bitter exotic factious exuberance won’t quite do, will it? It happens to apply to me personally well enough, yet how shall I pretend not to be aware that most other Yanks have families to feed and debts to pay, let alone hector one’s lowers that OUT OF IRAQ! always takes precedence even over and above?
    Dame Helena doesn’t deliberately mean to be quite such a narrowly blinkered ideological scold as she appears, I trust, but “PRIME responsibility”? And “ALL Americans”? Are these gravely weighed and deeply pondered WORDS, or are they only mere off-the-cuff Greenspasms after all?
    Let Dame Helena dump on Mr. McCloskey with impunity, if she likes, for I myself foresaw and disapprobated in advance the whole GOP-in-Mesopotmia production, yet without ever lifting any effectual finger against it. Guilty am I! OK that sancta simplicitas should lynch me, I repine not.
    But God knows best.

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