From the Washington Post comes the story of how US soldiers, intelligence agents, and CIA-trained Iraqi paramilitaries beat a prisoner to death:
"Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.
It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents. (...)
In the months before Mowhoush's detention, military intelligence officials across Iraq had been discussing interrogation tactics, expressing a desire to ramp things up and expand their allowed techniques to include more severe methods, such as beatings that did not leave permanent damage, and exploiting detainees' fear of dogs and snakes, according to documents released by the Army.
Officials in Baghdad wrote an e-mail to interrogators in the field on Aug. 14, 2003, stating that the "gloves are coming off" and asking them to develop "wish lists" of tactics they would like to use. An interrogator with the 66th Military Intelligence Company, who was assigned to work on Mowhoush, wrote back with suggestions in August, including the use of "close confinement quarters," sleep deprivation and using the fear of dogs, adding: "I firmly agree that the gloves need to come off." "
Gloves off, sleeping bag on:
""OGA Brian and the four indig were interrogating an unknown detainee," according to a classified memo, using the slang "Other Government Agency" for the CIA and "indig" for indigenous Iraqis. "When he didn't answer or provided an answer that they didn't like, at first [redacted] would slap Mowhoush, and then after a few slaps, it turned into punches," Ryan testified. "And then from punches, it turned into [redacted] using a piece of hose."
"The indig were hitting the detainee with fists, a club and a length of rubber hose," according to classified investigative records. Soldiers heard Mowhoush "being beaten with a hard object" and heard him "screaming" from down the hall, according to the Jan. 18, 2004, provost marshal's report. The report said four Army guards had to carry Mowhoush back to his cell.
Two days later, at 8 a.m., Nov. 26, Mowhoush -- prisoner No. 76 -- was brought, moaning and breathing hard, to Interrogation Room 6, according to court testimony. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. did a first round of interrogations for 30 minutes, taking a 15-minute break and resuming at 8:45. According to court testimony, Welshofer and Spec. Jerry L. Loper, a mechanic assuming the role of guard, put Mowhoush into the sleeping bag and wrapped the bag in electrical wire.
Welshofer allegedly crouched over Mowhoush's chest to talk to him. Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer, a linguist, stood nearby. Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Williams, an intelligence analyst, came to observe progress. Investigative records show that Mowhoush "becomes unresponsive" at 9:06 a.m. Medics tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes before pronouncing him dead."
Now consider this quote from a lawyer representing a soldier who has been accused of murder in connection with this case:
"The interrogation techniques were known and were approved of by the upper echelons of command of the 3rd ACR," Cassara said in a news conference. "They believed, and still do, that they were appropriate and proper."
OK, that's a lawyer for one of the accused. But other people involved agree:
"In a preliminary court hearing in March for Williams, Loper and Sommer, retired Chief Warrant Officer Richard Manwaring, an interrogator who worked with Welshofer in Iraq, testified that using the sleeping bag and putting detainees in a wall locker and banging on it were "appropriate" techniques that he himself used to frighten detainees and make them tense.
Col. David A. Teeples, who then commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, told the court he believed the "claustrophobic technique" was both approved and effective. It was used before, and for some time after, Mowhoush's death, according to sources familiar with the interrogation operation.
"My thought was that the death of Mowhoush was brought about by [redacted] and then it was unfortunate and accidental, what had happened under an interrogation by our people," Teeples said in court, according to a transcript."
Wrong. An unfortunate accident is what happens when, say, I trip, hit my head on a rock the wrong way, and die. It is not what happens when you beat someone until he's unconscious, and then, two days later, wrap him in a sleeping bag, tie it up with electrical wire, and sit on his chest. I'm sure they didn't want him to die, but I'm equally sure that when someone dies after a series of brutal beatings, it's not just an unfortunate accident.
I'm also sure that when you send soldiers off to invade a country without a plan for the occupation, and without providing enough troops to control any insurgencies that might arise, and when you then put enormous pressure on them to deliver intelligence by any means necessary and make it clear that the gloves are supposed to come off, it's not just "unfortunate" that some of them end up beating people to death either. And while I do not want to absolve the soldiers from blame -- I do, after all, believe in personal responsibility -- to my mind, the people who put them in this position have a lot less excuse for their actions than the soldiers do.
Update: Bob McManus notes an analysis by Marty Lederman at Balkinization. It's superb. You should read it.