Let’s make sure we get this story right. You take the captured, uniformed general of an enemy army – and in blatant violation of all notions of human decency and of the Geneva Conventions— you beat him with rubber hoses, pour water down his nose, then stuff him into a sleeping bag, tie him with electrical cord, and then sit your ass down on his chest until he suffocates and you are convicted of what? “Negligent homicide?”
Just what part of this deliberate torture-onto-death is negligent? And your punishment? A “reprimand,” a $6000 fine and house detention for eight weeks?So ruled a jury of six U.S. Army officers in the case of Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. much to the disgrace of our country, our people and, yes, the American armed forces. At least the Army had the basic humanity to put this torturer on trial for murder and demand life imprisonment. We were all dishonored, however, when the military jury let this guy off with just short of a back-slap and hand-shake. Says the L.A. Times:
The jury apparently agreed with defense arguments that Welshofer had believed he was following orders to use creative interrogation techniques when he put Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush face-first in a sleeping bag, wrapped him in electrical wire and sat on his chest in November 2003. The 57-year-old general died after 20 minutes in the bag.
Smothering someone is now a “creative interrogation technique?” Does this not strike even the most conservative reader as rather grotesque?
Remember that the victim in this case, Iraqi General Abed Hamel Mowhoush was a top, uniformed officer of a recognized state-sponsored enemy army and not some “illegal combatant.” Worse, when Mowhoush was suffocated in November 2003, it was after he had voluntarily turned himself in to U.S. military authorities. At least, sort of voluntarily. Fact is, the General surrendered to American troops because they were holding his sons hostage – yet another stark violation of international law. One of those sons, who was 15 years old at the time of this outrage, recounted the grisly story to the Washington Post:
Mohammed Mowhoush yesterday recalled his own arrest on Oct. 27, 2003, when he and his three brothers were taken from their Aim home as U.S. forces searched for his father. Mohammed, then 15, said U.S. troops arrived in the early morning darkness with helicopters and armored vehicles, and demanded to see his father.
"They said if my father did not come and give up, they will send us to Guantanamo," Mowhoush said, adding that he and his family had been observing Ramadan, but that his father was not home at the time. "That celebration turned into a real tragedy for us. They said if my father does not come, you will never see your family back."
Arresting someone to entice relatives to turn themselves in is considered by human rights organizations to be a form of hostage-taking. It is considered illegal in wartime but military investigative documents reveal it has occurred in Iraq.
Mowhoush said he and his brothers were taken into custody and interrogated for days, with U.S. officials accusing them of carrying out roles in the insurgency. He said he was told they believed he was a sniper, though he said he knew nothing about the war. He and his brothers were not charged with crimes.
Mowhoush said U.S. troops took his clothes off, poured cold water on him, beat him, and made him get into uncomfortable and painful "stress positions," as they are known in the military.
His father later surrendered in an attempt to free his sons, according to classified documents. The military began to use the sons against the general, Mohammed Mowhoush said. After about 28 days in prison, the younger Mowhoush said, the Army brought the general to an old train depot outside of Qaim -- a temporary detention facility nicknamed "Blacksmith Hotel" -- to pressure him to talk.
"He was tired and I saw wounds on his body, and he was tired because they hit him so much, they made a lot of pain on him and he couldn't even talk to me," Mowhoush said, describing how he was briefly reunited with his father.
It was about that time that Abed Mowhoush had been beaten by Iraqi paramilitaries code-named "Scorpions," who were working with the CIA, according to classified documents. Mohammed Mowhoush said he saw some masked Iraqis at the prison, and said at one point they escorted him into a room near where his father was being interrogated. He said they yelled at his father and told him that if he did not tell the truth, they would execute his son."
We pick up the narrative from the L.A. Times report:
Witnesses testified that Welshofer stood by while Iraqi nationals, reportedly in the employ of the CIA, beat the general for about 30 minutes with rubber hoses. The next day, Welshofer took the general to the roof of the prison and, while other soldiers held him down, poured water on his face.
The general did not answer questions, so the following morning Welshofer turned to what was dubbed "the sleeping bag technique." Invented by another interrogator who recalled how his older brother used to stuff him in a sleeping bag to induce claustrophobia, the technique had been approved by Welshofer's supervisor.
The day after the general's death, prosecutors said, Welshofer asked for another sleeping bag so he could continue using the technique on others.
Can anyone read this and not feel utter disgust? This is our refined and sophisticated manner of extracting intelligence? Holding 15 year olds hostage and then smothering their fathers in sleeping bags? And then publicly acquitting the guilty? This is how we win the hearts and minds of our potential adversaries? Heaven help us.