2010-11-22 Talking back to the interrogator

On November 10th 2010 the Yale Daily Newspaper published an article by Alex Hawke, Berkeley College sophomore - a prior US Department of Defence supervisor "...for all interrogation and intelligence operations on Camp Cropper's High Value Detention Facility in Baghdad, Iraq."

Alex's article,'Protect our warriors - keep their secrets' was published as a reply to Jonathan Edwards College sophomore Rory Marsh's article entitled 'Thank you, Wikileaks.'

It comes as no surprise that when a previous US Department of Defense supervisor "...for all interrogation and intelligence operations on Camp Cropper's High Value Detention Facility in Baghdad, Iraq" - such as Alex Hawke - writes in to a student newspaper - the kids may be a little bit nervous about writing back.

But frankly I appreciate my democratic rights far too much to let Alex's claims stand unchallenged.

Anyway, here's my personal letter of response:

Oh. Hi Alex.

What a surprise to find a previous US Department of Defense supervisor "...for all interrogation and intelligence operations on Camp Cropper's High Value Detention Facility in Baghdad, Iraq..." writing for a student newspaper!

What a score for the Yale Daily Newspaper to get a first-hand account of your version of events...and what a dubious honour for your professors and fellow students to have you in their classrooms.

You see, Alex, not everyone agrees with your rose-tinted version of the US war in Iraq...and your opinions on Wikileaks.

To start, let's examine your claim that: "...professionals can use information published by Wikileaks "... to gain the advantage to kill our soldiers and undermine our [US] strategy."

After undertaking a comprehensive review of Afghanistan War Logs published by Wikileaks, Reuters reports that US defence secretary Robert Gates stated "...the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure."

Similarly the Australian Department of Defence Task Force's investigation into Wikileaks' publication of the Afghanistan War Log found that "...the leaked documents have not had a direct significant adverse impact on Australia's national interests. Operational areas of Defence have confirmed that necessary measures have been taken to mitigate against risks to operational security. The review concluded that no local sources were clearly identified..."

Wikileaks' vetting and removal of sensitive data before release of the Iraq War Logs was reportedly even more stringent than previous vetting applied to the Afghanistan war logs.

It is pertinent to note that Trevor Timms of New York Law School has also come to the conclusion Wikileaks has committed no crime.

Alex, you saw fit to purport that "...the national news media has found very little information worth reporting...."

But the hundreds of thousands of news articles published in the wake of the release of the Iraq War Documents do not support your assertion. And it is down-right outrageous that you suggest the 109'032 deaths detailed in Wikileaks' release of the Iraq War Logs are not worth reporting.

Alex, you write that the "US does not condone torture."

Umm, unfortunately former US President George Bush - your former work place Commander in Chief - just doesn't agree with you Alex. He's just released a new book and here's what he had to say: Asked by the C.I.A. whether they could proceed with "water-boarding", Bush responded: "damn right!"

Former Vice President Richard B Cheney also commented during a television interview in Feburary 2010 that he was a big supporter of water boarding too.

Amnesty International , ACLU , the U.N. , the U.K. , and US President Barack Obama all seem to think water-boarding is torture - and is a breach of international law; no matter how much George Bush (not surprisingly) keeps repeating it's not.

Let's move on.

Alex, you claim that the vast majority of Iraqi civilian deaths were at the hands of "...other Iraqis during intense sectarian violence that swept the nation as US support for our involvement waned."

But you fail to mention that documents released by Wikileaks reveals the US exploited Shia sectarian hatred against Sunnis to help suppress the Sunni insurgency when Sunnis had rejected the US war.

Reports show that the US utilised "...the deliberate deployment of Shia and Kurdish police commandoes in areas of Sunni insurgency in the full knowledge that they were torturing Sunni detainees..."

Furthermore "...the strategy inflamed Sunni fears of Shia rule and was a major contributing factor to the rise of al- Qaeda's influence in the Sunni areas. The escalating Sunni-Shia violence it produced led to the massive sectarian warfare of 2006 in Baghdad in which tens of thousands of civilians - mainly Sunnis - were killed."

So those civilian deaths you mention - the ones you claim were simply a result of sectarian violence, un-related to the US war in Iraq? A large proportion of those deaths were caused by the US handing Sunni detainees - who oppose the US war in Iraq - over to Shia and Kurdish police.

Alex, you say that "...to claim that our military and civilian leadership condones acts of abuse, torture and mistreatment is irrational. Reports of abuse, whether at the hands of US or international forces, are taken extremely seriously in confinement and on the battlefield. There are strict procedures and timelines for reporting such accusations up the chain, and anyone who fails to do so is a criminal and subject to prosecution. Our military did not excuse the acts at Abu Ghraib, nor have we even encouraged outward violations of the Law of Land Warfare [...] the professionalism of our personnel or the legality of our action was never in question."

This is simply is not true.

The publication of the Iraq War Logs revealed 15,000 previously un-reported Iraqi deaths, highlighting a culture of US forces under-reporting Iraqi civilian deaths.

Examine for instance the example of "Operation Vigilant" - the 3 week long bombardment of Fallujah by US airstrikes in April 2004. Only one Iraqi 'civilian' death was logged by US troops in the Iraq War Logs during this period - a corpse discovered by a US patrol - however the documents log 26 reports of American deaths and 163 'enemy' deaths.

But the Iraq Body Count - a London based organization - conservatively estimated that at least 600 civilians died during the 2004 battle of Fallujah.

600 known civilian deaths discovered erased from US military records - simply ignored and unmentioned in the official logs. I can only wonder why.

Alex, you claim US forces in Iraq acted professionally, legally, and that there was no "...cover-up."

This contentious allegation brings us to the topic of US military order Frago 242 - the order not to investigate abuse of detainees by non-coalition forces - an order which the US military personnel operating in Iraq acted under.

Nick Davies at the Guardian writes: "A frago is a "fragmentary order" which summarises a complex requirement. Frago 242, issued in June 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, orders coalition troops 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".

Of course, Frago 242 is a clear violation of international law; the United Nations Convention Against Torture, ratified by the US in 1994 explicitly states it is a breach of international law for any government to transfer detainees to a regime at whose hands they face torture or other serious human rights violations.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found "...President Barack Obama's government handed over thousands of detainees to the Iraqi authorities." This occurred despite US forces "... knowing there were hundreds of reports of alleged torture in Iraqi government facilities."

Under your command, how many detainees were transferred to Iraqi forces, Alex?

Perhaps your reluctance to admit any wrong doing is in part linked to the fact that Juan Ernesto Mendez - the new U.N. torture expert - is currently urging the United States to conduct a full investigation into torture under the Bush administration. Utilising information released by Wikileaks, Mr Mendez hopes to visit Iraq to investigate the "very widespread practice of torture" of detainees.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has mentioned that Wikileaks publication of US war logs may be used in possible ICC prosecution of US war crimes. Mendez has also stated he hopes to prosecute offenders "...as well as senior officials who allowed abuse to occur."

Were you considered a "...senior official..." Alex? Or were you just following orders?

It is simply obscene that as a prior US Department of Defense supervisor "...for all interrogation and intelligence operations on Camp Cropper's High Value Detention Facility in Baghdad, Iraq..." you write a mendacious rendition of history for a student newspaper, feeding misinformation directly to audience of bright young students; a prime target for US military recruitment.

When you blatantly distort the nature of US military action to American college students you piss on the graves of dead American soldiers and innocent Iraqi civilians killed by a US war. You piss on the values of the American founding fathers and on the concept of democracy.

Alex, you write: "Like it or not, we bear the burden of finishing this fight. We owe it to the Iraqi dead. We owe it to our lost brothers. We owe it to the world's posterity."

How much more disgustingly arrogant could you be Alex, dedicating war propaganda to the war dead and the world's "posterity"?

If you truly gave a damn about your nation you wouldn't be feeding recruitment aged kids the military media-line in a student newspaper.

As US Iraq vet Jason Hurd shares in his open letter to America: "You can't protect people while simultaneously oppressing them."

The hearts and minds of the people cannot be won through attempts to conceal the potentially criminal actions of the US; to do so is to repress the moral compass of a nation.

And so the students sitting beside you at Berkeley College judge you. The students reading the Yale Daily News judge you. The international media judges you. The world judges you. And History is judging you.

Alex, you write:

"...we're not villians..."

Alex, I think you doth protest too much.

And so I think we'll leave it to the international courts and the history books to decide - if you, Alex Hawke, are a war criminal. Ha.

That said - I reserve the right to my own opinion - based on raw data.


An excellent riposte to blatant lies. Nicely executed. :)

You are gold. This is so so

You are gold. This is so so good... did you send it to Yale Daily?

No, have to create an account

No, have to create an account with Yale Daily News to do that...

Excellent Article

Thanks for this. Excellent article, lucidly written.

Well Done!!!


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