A new investigation has revealed that the Pentagon sent high ranking officials to manage secret detention and torture units in Iraq.
A US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America, Colonel James Steele, a retired special forces veteran nominated by Donald Rumsfeld, was sent to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq, alongside General David Petraeus, who was forced to resign as director of the CIA last November after a sex scandal.
It is believed that these units accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war and conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation.
The investigation conducted by The Guardian and BBC Arabic, was sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres.
General Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele, has spoken about the US involvement in the torture units for the first time:
“They knew everything that was going on there … the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture.
“Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee.
“Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.
“I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library’s columns. And he was tied up, with his legs above his head. Tied up. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten.”
Also, a press photographer, Gilles Peress, who visited one of the commando centres in the same library, said:
“We were in a room in the library interviewing Steele and I’m looking around I see blood everywhere.
“And while this interview was going on with a Saudi jihadi with Jim Steele also in the room, there were these terrible screams, somebody shouting ‘Allah, Allah, Allah!’. But it wasn’t kind of religious ecstasy or something like that, these were screams of pain and terror.”