CLONMEL HOTSPOT -- In the case of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal sits a story within a story. The most salacious elements will never reach the masses because they cut to the shadows of US government policy. The criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists and the grab-ass behaviour of a 22-year-old female may provide iconic moments for the Iraqi madness. Behind all that sits a highly secret compartmentalised operation, commissioned to use dirty tactics in the War Against Terrorism. These tactics involved Copper Green, a set of interrogation protocols never before used by a Western nation. Their use has embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of elite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.
In the late 70s, we taught Copper Green techniques in mock POW conditions. We didn't call them that but we used Viet Cong methods to perfect the our style. We imposed our will upon willing subjects who learned to battle the psychological, mental, and physical fatigue that occurs quickly before the four-day session ends. Many of our tactics were passed down to underclassmen by word of mouth--or by being on the receiving end of the "interrogation technique." By the early 80s, the physical coercion in these set pieces was laced with sexual humiliation. Some of the women guards played their roles with passion. But the antics stayed inside the mock POW compound.
During debriefings, the Resistance Cadre looked at what had unfolded and often decided to prohibit specific tactics from future interrogation sessions. Knowledgeable officers watched the process and offered guidance during debriefings. I worked with mental health specialists, several chaplains, intelligence officers and brutes in those debriefings. We crafted a system that taught inmates respect for themselves and respect for others. Along the way, inmates often broke down. Our job was to ensure they learned more than they compromised. That was obviously not the goal in Abu Ghraib.
In Iraq, soldiers with no Resistance Training ended in positions where they compromised the integrity of military prisons. Military reservists and guardsmen found themselves out of their depth. Their mobilisation orders--set down by Secretary Rumsfeld--put them into an environment that should have been operated by the CIA.
Rumsfeld cannot talk about this because this part of his remit originates in the black budget field of operations and confirming it compromises compartmentalised information. Powell knows about this but will neither confirm nor deny the methods and structures of intelligence gathering at the cell level.
If anything, the shortfalls in Abu Ghraib demand an accountability of action from Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary for Intelligence in the Department of Defense. If he is forced to testify in a closed session, he will offer hours of omissions. He might point to legal counsel from Jay Bybee, the judge whose interpretation of torture gives scant comfort to any American who finds himself at the receiving end of an interrogator's boot.
According to Bybee, torture must include "pain like that accompanying death, organ failure or the impairment of a significant body function." And even if it includes that, the treatment doesn't qualify as torture unless "the infliction of such pain is the offender's specific objective."
There has been a running battle between intelligence specialists about the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction. Anybody who offered teasers about their existence became a favoured son. Anybody who offered contradictory analysis were relegated and did not receive mention at the Cabinet table.
Through all this mess, I take away the painful conclusion that the war on terror is morally unjustified. It has damaged civil liberties, racked up debilitating levels of debt, and is most notable for being the biggest strategic disaster of the 21st century.
Bernard Goldbach served in the USAF as a Pentagon Air Staff Analyst in the early 80s, as an Airlift Control Center Duty Officer in the late 80s and as an Strategic Plans Officer in a NATO billet in the early 90s.
John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff -- "The roots of torture"