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US Interventionist Policies in Iraq Unleashed Chaos, Brutality and Death Still Unfolding Today

As was revealed by WikiLeaks, US policies in Iraq were largely responsible for the disintegration of Iraq that we are witnessing today.

Two US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft fly after receiving fuel over Iraq, October 4, 2014. President Barack Obama authorized humanitarian aid deliveries to Iraq as well as targeted airstrikes. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel / US Air Force)

In 2010, WikiLeaks became a household name by releasing 251,287 classified State Department cables. Now, a new book collects in-depth analyses of what these cables tell us about the foreign policy of the United States, from authors including Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail and our regular contributors Gareth Porter, Robert Naiman, Phyllis Bennis and Stephen Zunes. “The essays that make up The WikiLeaks Files shed critical light on a once secret history,” says Edward Snowden. Click here to order your copy today with a donation to Truthout.

The following is Chapter 12 of The WikiLeaks Files:

On April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released a classified US military video that showed in graphic, horrifying detail the murder of over a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff, in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. The video quickly became known as “Collateral Murder.”

The recording clearly captures one of the US helicopter crewmen exclaim: “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards!” after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street. To most people, the dehumanizing attitude toward murdering innocent civilians displayed in the video was shocking. But to journalists working in Iraq throughout the US-led occupation, this type of callous behavior was just another day at the office while reporting from the front lines of empire.[1]

The WikiLeaks cables from Iraq displayed the brutality of US policies in that country that were ongoing throughout the occupation. The home raids, creation and use of death squads, divide-and-conquer strategies exercised through the setting up of the proxy “Awakening Councils,” and the use of torture are outlined here, and reveal just how important the WikiLeaks cables from Iraq were and continue to be in highlighting the US tactics of hegemony.

A cable published by WikiLeaks provides details of a home raid carried out by US forces on March 15, 2006, that led to the killing of ten people, including women and children. The cable, which included a letter by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, details what happened:

I have received various reports indicating that at least 10 persons, namely Mr Faiz Hratt Khalaf (aged 28), his wife Sumay’ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra’a (aged 5) Aisha (aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz’s mother Ms Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz’s sister (name unknown), Faiz’s nieces Asma’a Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid. [06GENEVA763]

This particular raid had come after US air strikes had been carried out in the same area. The cable is evidence of a widespread US policy during the occupation of shooting first and asking questions later, as well as detaining anyone and everyone “suspected” of having any links to attacks on US forces. This writer interviewed dozens of US soldiers who served in Iraq who told of policies like “reconnaissance by fire,” in which soldiers were literally ordered to shoot people first, then decide if the people killed were a threat or not. Several soldiers revealed that their officers would later cover for them, as long as they shot people if they perceived any kind of “threat.” Given that the raids often ended in summary executions of innocent people, the US military in Iraq often took “suspected” to have the same meaning as “guilty.” The cable goes on to remind the reader of the need for the US military to adhere to international and humanitarian law, in addition to alluding to the widespread pattern of excessive violence: “Other reports indicate that over the past five months, there have been a significant number of lethal incidents in which the [Multinational Force (MNF)] is alleged to have used excessive force to respond to perceived threats either at checkpoints or by using air bombing in civilian areas.”

The WikiLeaks Iraq cables provide dozens of instances of admitted “excessive force” during the occupation. The aforementioned cable provides but one of tens of thousands of examples of violence carried out in Iraq by US forces that led to over one million deaths during the invasion and ten-year occupation.[2]

These documents, as much or even more than the others, pull back the veil on the tactics the US empire has used in Iraq and continues to use abroad to expand its reach. Several of the articulations of these doctrines are worth mentioning here, as they received little to no coverage in the corporate media.

Clear evidence is provided of a military strategy aimed at generating civilian casualties in order to turn the population against insurgents: “[T]he psychological effectiveness of the CSDF [paramilitary] concept starts by reversing the insurgent strategy of making the government the repressor. It forces the insurgents to cross a critical threshold—that of attacking and killing the very class of people they are supposed to be liberating.” Another passage makes clear how detentions were encouraged: “The United States reserves the right to engage in nonconsensual [extraterritorial] abductions for three specific reasons …”

The military was clear about the measures it used to control public dissent: “Checkpoints, searches, roadblocks; surveillance, censorship, and press control; and restriction of activity that applies to selected groups (labor unions, political groups and the like) are further PRC [Population and Resource Control] measures.”

The next three passages provide examples of how the US used economic warfare against the people of Iraq as a means of battling insurgents—a policy that inevitably impacted the civilian population as well:

US policy states that the enemy’s uniform may be used for infiltration behind enemy lines.

However, Article 39 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits this and other uses of the enemy’s uniform. “The agent controlling the creation, flow, and access stores of value” wields power. Although finance is generally an operation of real and virtual currency, anything that can serve as a “medium of exchange” provides those who accept the medium with a method of financial transaction. For both reasons, ARSOF understand that they can and should exploit the active and analytical capabilities existing in the financial instrument of US power in the conduct of UW [Unconventional Warfare].

In addition to intelligence and policy changes that may provide active incentive or disincentive leverage, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has a long history of conducting economic warfare valuable to any ARSOF UW campaign.

Like all other instruments of US national power, the use and effects of economic “weapons” are interrelated and they must be coordinated carefully.[3]

All of the Iraq WikiLeaks cables provide vital information about US policies that have left a US legacy of violence and political instability that forms the basis of the failed state that is Iraq today.

Divide and Conquer

History shows us that in Iraq, while there are clear differences in the religious beliefs of the two sects of Islam—Sunni and Shia— the kind of violent sectarianism that has become the norm today did not exist in modern Iraq prior to the 2003 US-led invasion.

Several of the larger areas of Baghdad comprised equal numbers of Sunni and Shia, and this was common across many other cities, such as Baquba. Furthermore, one of the most important Shia shrines in the world, the Shrine of al-Askari, is located in the middle of Samarra, a primarily Sunni city in Iraq’s al-Anbar province.

During the first six months of the occupation there was little violent resistance against the US military, but by late 2003 the Pentagon revealed that attacks had begun and were escalating. The US occupation of Iraq quickly devolved into chaos as the Iraqi resistance began to inflict ever-greater damage on occupation forces. At first, the armed resistance in Iraq was primarily Sunni, given that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was Sunni and that segment of the population had tended to benefit from his regime.

The resistance was then joined, in the spring of 2004, by an armed uprising by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia. At this point the US was struggling to control not only much of Baghdad and the sprawling al-Anbar province, but also much of the south, including the Sadr City area of Baghdad, where Sadr’s forces were located.

By April 2004, when the US siege of Fallujah was underway and simultaneously Sadr’s forces were in open conflict with US forces, there were moments when the majority of US military supply lines in Iraq were cut off, indicating a massive slippage in US control over the country. The WikiLeaks cables, in both their content and timing, reveal what the US was orchestrating in order to attempt to control the events unfolding on the ground.

To regain control of the situation, on May 6, 2004, George W. Bush appointed John Negroponte as the first US ambassador to Iraq, where he served until 2005. Negroponte quickly brought in retired colonel James Steele, whom he had worked with closely when Negroponte was Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to Honduras during the early 1980s. Negroponte’s and Steele’s covert actions in mobilizing death squads and conducting operations that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths across Central America are now well documented, including their extreme abuses of human rights.[4]

When it became clear to the Bush administration that it was rapidly losing control of Iraq, these two men were placed in Baghdad to resume their classic colonial strategy of divide and conquer, otherwise referred to as “counter-insurgency.”[5] Less than two years after their implementation by Negroponte and Steele, death squads were ravaging and terrorizing Baghdad on a daily basis.[6] Iraqis living in the capital city were seeing the reality of sectarian-based civil war by the spring of 2006.[7]

As a result of the death squads, sectarian violence exploded. Many areas of Baghdad began to self-separate, as Sunni families began moving out of predominantly Shia areas, and vice versa. Ironically, as a result of their own policies, during 2006 and 2007 the US-military-backed separation of mixed Shia/Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad became the norm.[8] Occupation forces erected massive concrete barriers spanning miles that separated families, further delineating the US-fomented Shia-Sunni divide in Iraq’s capital city.[9] These actions were ironic given that the US was not an ally of Iran, and were augmented by the US backing of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has always maintained strong ties to Iran and is a member of the Shia Dawa Party, which has its origins in that country.

The US supported Maliki because he had agreed to keep Iraqi oil fields accessible to Western companies, as well as moving to begin the purchase of US military hardware and training. However, Maliki quickly began to be referred to by Iraqis as a “Shia Saddam,” his overtly sectarian style of government being subject to widespread criticism.[10] The US backing of Maliki also caused political discord between Shia and Kurdish political parties from early on.[11] These facts, along with bombings of sacred Shia shrines, caused many Iraqis to become outraged about what was happening in their country, with many believing these were all attempts by the occupation forces to sow division between Iraqis.[12]

Many WikiLeaks cables and documents shed light the US policies that encouraged sectarianism. While documentation does not reveal overt orders to foment violent sectarianism, it does reveal US policies that led to sectarian tensions and violence. One addressed a statement issued by a prominent Shia religious leader who sharply criticized the US over a joint US-Iraqi raid in the Ur neighborhood, calling the action a “heinous crime.” The cable accuses the US of siding with the Sunni minority of Iraq, and of actively denying a sectarian war in the country. This was ironic, given that US policies had provoked this sectarian war, which by the time this cable was communicated was in full swing. It is striking that this particular cable displays what appear to be the retaliatory methods employed by the US military during the occupation, as the Shia leaders’ criticism of US tactics was then followed by the violent raid mentioned above:

On March 26 (before the Ur neighborhood raid) the office of Ayatalloh Muhammad al-Yaqubi (spiritual leader of the Fadhila party) criticized the [United States government] for denying the existence of a sectarian war in Iraq … Yacoubi pointed to the daily killings, attacks on holy shrines, and the displacement as evidence of this sectarian war. The statement called for political parties not to allow the participation of any side that does not renounce terrorism [a not-so-subtle reference to the Sunni Arabs]. It sharply criticized the new Iraqi National Security Council, the American Ambassador, and other Arab states. The statement concluded by demanding that the US change its Ambassador, that the Iraqi government confront the elements of this sectarian war, and that the Shia nation organize itself into “committees and groups to defend themselves and their holy places.” [06BAGHDAD1050]

In a few years’ time, Maliki had had time to solidify his power by marginalizing Sunni politicians in Baghdad, setting up the secret detention facilities for Sunnis that were later criticized by Human Rights Watch, and continuing his policies of home raids and detentions in primarily Sunni areas.[13]

Another cable reveals how sectarian tensions had increased so much that Fallujah leaders were complaining to the US military about how Iraqi Army (IA) units operating in the embattled city were stoking sectarian flames to such a degree that the Sunnis were requesting a continuance of the US presence:

Fallujah leaders echoed that ongoing sectarianism would create trouble in Fallujah for IA units. The current mood had increased tension among residents; if sectarianism in Baghdad lessened, IA units (dominantly Shia) would be better received. If not, planned handover of security responsibilities would become complicated and be undermined. Abbas stressed that more Iraqi Security Force units were needed in Fallujah should Coalition Forces numbers be reduced, “two or three times at least.” City leaders registered strong concerns about the growing power of militias, which remained the main problem. Col. Karim noted that the planned movement of a special police battalion to Fallujah had been put on hold, due to the volatile situation in the capital. [06BAGHDAD4400]

Another cable reveals how leaders in Fallujah, along with some members of the Iraqi Army, had criticized the timing of the execution of Saddam Hussein, saying that it had been an act of “revenge” by the predominantly Shia government:

Fallujah leaders told Al Anbar PolOff January 1 that the city remained quiet following Saddam Hussein’s December 30 execution. They criticized, however, the timing of the execution, which coincided with the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday. Fallujah’s mayor said that the rush to execute Saddam appeared to be an act of “revenge” by the Shia-led government. An IA battalion executive officer (Shia), based in Fallujah, echoed the criticisms regarding the timing of the execution. He said that “the new year had been ushered in with a bad omen.” Marines reported late January 2 that a pro-Saddam, anti-Moqtada Sadr demonstration had been held in Haditha. [07BAGHDAD29]

The cable quoted Fallujah City Council secretary Abbas Ali Hussein telling the US military that “the sacred nature of the Eid celebrations had been violated … the same day we slay animals in celebration, the government slays Saddam.” Indeed, the timing of the execution caused outrage among much of the Sunni population, both in Iraq and across the Middle East.[14]

Sectarian tensions and violence in Iraq began to increase in mid 2005, and by early 2006 were worsening dramatically. By that time, nearly every morning saw bodies on the streets of Baghdad after death-squad activities at night, and Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia had declared open war on Sunnis.

On April 3, 2006, at the height of the sectarian bloodletting in Iraq, a cable titled “Fallujah: Army-Police Friction and Perceived US ‘Mixed Messages'” reveals the tensions on the ground, as articulated by Fallujah’s mayor, that were created by the US policy of favoring the Shia over the Sunni through their backing of Maliki’s government in Baghdad:

Reports of recent Iraqi Army (IA) and Iraqi Police (IP) friction in Fallujah led to a Marine-initiated meeting held March 20 to convey Coalition Force (CF) concerns and implement operational changes. The Shia-dominant army units (two brigades) and Sunni-dominant city police force (1,300 at present, locally recruited) agreed to new procedures and improved liaison activity. For now, the intra-ISF tension has lessened, but army and police units in the still volatile and symbolic city will require continued close Marine oversight. Marine leaders made clear that officers will be held personally accountable for the actions of their forces. Fallujah’s mayor, Sheikh Dhari Abdel Hady Al-Zobaie, also expressed frustration with US “mixed messages.” Fallujans remain concerned about perceived coalition policy to stand aside should sectarian violence worsen and extend beyond Baghdad. They argue that the Coalition is responsible for protecting Sunni Arabs against [Ministry of Interior-run] militias, and have expressed mounting anxiety over a premature US pullout. [06BAGHDAD1087]

The cable provides further evidence of increasing sectarian tensions:

Fallujan residents have regularly complained to Marines and Poloff about IA behavior and treatment … Sheikh Dhari also voiced concerns over what he considered to be an unclear US position regarding increased sectarianism and CF reactions. Would US military forces stand aside, as Secretary Rumsfeld implied in his recent Senate testimony? He added “we are in a dilemma and confusion. It is like Indian movies, which all start with happiness but end with dilemmas.” Sheikh Dhari urged the US to be more clear on these areas or risk exacerbating tension and Sunni-Arab fears that they will be left to fend for themselves against government-backed Shia militias should the situation deteriorate.

The cable concludes with this prophetic note that perfectly summarizes why and how these sectarian tensions persist in Iraq today:

Sheikh Dhari’s criticisms of US positions center on the sustained fear, verging on fixation, in Anbar of Iranian influence. This perception of Tehran’s meddling is widely shared. The not unfounded anxiety over MOI militias will likewise continue to drive the unsettled Sunni- Arab mindset in Fallujah. One senior Fallujah Imam recently told PolOff that while the Shia and Kurds had their militias, the Badr Corp and Pesh Merga respectively, the Sunnis only had the resistance.

The Awakening

As part of the so-called US military surge in 2006–07, the US reinvigorated a tactic used by Saddam Hussein in an effort to control armed resistance groups operating across Iraq’s al-Anbar province.

The tactic involved finding key tribal leaders and dispensing tens of millions of dollars to them in order to entice them to order fighters under their control to “stand down” from their attacks against US occupation forces. The method was successful in causing many members of the Iraqi resistance, along with many outside it, to join the Sahwa forces that began to work directly with US forces. The Sahwa were promised jobs in the Iraqi Army and Iraqi security forces after the US withdrew, but the Maliki government never provided the vast majority of the nearly 100,000-strong Sahwa with the jobs they had been promised.[15]

A cable titled “Sunni Arab Insider Warns PM Maliki Will Reignite Insurgency” reads:

Tens of thousands of Sunni Arab “Sons of Iraq” and Sahwa (“Awakening”) fighters, who were instrumental in pushing Al-Qa’ida out of Anbar Province, and on the defensive elsewhere, will not be absorbed into the Iraqi Security Forces and vocational training programs as projected, a senior aide to (Sunni Arab) Vice President Hashimi predicted. Instead, he continued, the GOI, driven by an increasingly overconfident and sectarian-minded circle of advisors around Prime Minister Maliki, will likely arrest hundreds of Sunni Arab SOI and Sahwa commanders, and cast aside thousands of Sunni Arab Sahwa/SOI foot soldiers. This will result in a sharp backlash which will set back the national reconciliation process and could reignite Sunni Arab insurgency, he warned. [08BAGHDAD2781]

Hashimi’s warnings would indeed prove prescient.

A separate cable provided yet another warning sign of how this policy of creating and supporting the Sahwa forces was exacerbating Sunni-Shia tensions:

According to Sahwa leader Abu Azaam, the GOI and Shia have opposed Sahwa and the Sons of Iraq … since its establishment, and transitioning the Sahwa to GOI administration would lead to its dissolution. This will increase the sense of betrayal among Sunni Arabs, and could lead to more anti-Coalition, anti-GOI actions. Abu Azaam said that US forces must remain in Iraq, and increase their presence rather than withdraw, because a premature withdrawal of US forces would directly serve Iranian goals. He stressed that voters should throw out the current Iranian- influenced leadership in upcoming elections, although it will be difficult to elect new groups because the current Shi’a political parties are too strong and corrupt. [08BAGHDAD2831]

One of the primary goals for the creation the Sahwa was that of self-protection, since the political cost of high numbers of dead US soldiers in Iraq had become too high. By creating the Sahwa, US soldiers were able to withdraw from the front lines fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq and the insurgency. But after these new mercenaries had done their job, the empire hung them out to dry.[16]

By 2009, it had become clear that Sahwa members were more concerned with getting paid than they were with Baghdad’s overall security, or even with how other Sahwa members located outside the capital were faring:

Contacts emphasized that Baghdad SOI are not really connected with SOI groups in other provinces. SOIs in the provinces are upset, however, that the GOI has not yet established a reliable mechanism to pay SOI salaries and honor integration and new employment promises; they question the GOI’s commitment to the program. Some SOI contacts also worry that SOI groups will be abandoned as CF leaves Iraq. [09BAGHDAD899]

The controversial move of the US military to back Sunni Sahwa forces, as well as simultaneously backing the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad, drove another deep wedge between Sunni and Shia political groups. Following disputes between the tribal groups assembled into the Sahwa and the Iraqi government, the creation of these forces became a point of political friction between the Sunni and Shia that festers to this day.[17]


Ali Abbas lived in the Al-Amiriyah district of Baghdad. His story illustrates the scope and methodology of the US torture campaign used throughout Iraq. In a 2004 interview, he told me that so many of his neighbors had been detained that friends urged him to go to the nearby US base (in Amiriyah, Baghdad) to try to get answers as to why so many innocent people were being detained. He went three times. The fourth time—on September 13, 2003—he was detained himself, despite not having been charged with any crime. Within two days he was transferred from the military base to Abu Ghraib, where he was held for over three months.

“The minute I got there, the suffering began,” he recalled. The treatment he described mirrors that contained in the Iraq War Logs, including evidence of torture in Abu Ghraib ignored by the US authorities.[18] Abbas’s treatment included sexual humiliation, beatings, denial of food and water, mock executions, death threats, threats to his family, the use of dogs, and offenses against Islam. Abbas did not feel this was the work of a few individual soldiers: “This was organized, it wasn’t just individuals, and every one of the troops in Abu Ghraib was responsible for it.”

The Iraq War Logs revealed documents that directly implicated US General David Petraeus and Central American “dirty wars” veteran Colonel James Steele in Iraqi detainee abuse.[19]

WikiLeaks added notes that

[t]he allegations made by both American and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, for the first time implicates US advisers in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that General David Petraeus—who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal—has been linked through an adviser to this abuse.[20]

According to a Human Rights Watch report released on April 27, 2005, “Abu Ghraib was only the tip of the iceberg. It’s now clear that abuse of detainees has happened all over—from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay to a lot of third-country dungeons where the United States has sent prisoners. And probably quite a few other places we don’t even know about.”[21]

The report added, “Harsh and coercive interrogation tech- niques such as subjecting detainees to painful stress positions and extended sleep deprivation have been routinely used in detention centers throughout Iraq.” An earlier report by Major General Antonio Taguba had found “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses,” constituting “systematic and illegal abuse of detainees” at Abu Ghraib. Another Pentagon report documented forty-four allegations of such war crimes at Abu Ghraib. An ICRC report concluded that, in military intelligence sections of Abu Ghraib, “methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information.” Amnesty International released similar findings.[22]

The majority of the WikiLeaks cables concerning torture in US military detention facilities were focused more on the media backlash against the release of the infamous photographs from Abu Ghraib than they were on bringing those responsible for the torture to justice.

A May 2004 cable titled “Special Media Reaction on Iraqi Prisoner Abuse” (note that the word “torture” is never used in the cables—only “abuse” or “mistreatment”) simply shares information about how various Arab media outlets were covering the reaction to the demeaning photographs. [04AMMAN3388]

Another cable, titled “Public Reaction to Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners,” revealed the primary concerns of the occupiers, and concluded with a suggestion of the “spin” to put on the story:

Negative and vehement public reactions to photos and reports of Iraqi prisoner abuse continued. Ever since it hit the press, the issue has been dominating local and regional media as well as public opinion in the UAE. Contacts commiserate that public diplomacy efforts have become next to impossible because the photos gave extremists additional ammunition to criticize the US. A senior contact noted that the good side of the story reveals that there are good-hearted and conscientious people involved with the issue. [04ABUDHABI1508]

The US military was aware of secret prisons in various locations in Iraq, one of them being within Fallujah. This was confirmed by a memo dated February 2008, published by WikiLeaks.[23] It is a confidential memo from Major General Kelly, the commander of US forces in western Iraq. According to WikiLeaks, it was privately verified by WikiLeaks staff, and was neither denied nor contradicted by the Multinational Force West (MNF-W) when questioned by Shaun Waterman, the national security editor for UPI. The MNF-W commander’s comments read:

I spent the entire day inspecting the Fallujah city jail. I found the conditions there to be exactly (unbelievable over crowding, total lack of anything approaching even minimal levels of hygiene for human beings, no food, little water, no ventilation) to those described in the recent (18 February) FOX news article by Michael Totten entitled the “Dungeon of Fallujah.” When queried the Iraqis and marines present throughout my inspection as to why these conditions existed, three conditions were universally cited as problems in Fallujah as well as the rest of Anbar.

First, there is zero support from the government for any of the jails in Anbar. No funds, food or medical support has been provided from any ministry. Second, the police that run Anbar’s jails are the same personnel responsible for investigating crimes. These jailer/investigators are undermanned and more often than not spend most of their time out begging and scavenging for food than investigating crimes. (It is unlikely the prisoners will eat today.) Third, Anbar lacks trained Iraqi correctional officers (ICOS) to run the jails in Anbar. The development and employment of trained ICOS would enable the IP to focus on criminal investigation rather [than] jail supervision. I believe the Iraqi police are doing the best they can, and they literally begged me on humanitarian, moral and religious grounds to help them help the prisoners by somehow moving the government to action.

The MNF commander’s comments show that even the US military was deeply concerned about the Iraqi government’s treatment of detainees.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reported in 2010 that US military psychologists and psychiatrists were complicit in torture and other illegal procedures.[24]

Hence, while this kind of horrific torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees was common across US detention facilities throughout the occupation, it is telling that the majority of the cables and memos related to this issue were more focused on media damage control and on diplomatic fronts than they were of resolving the problem and bringing those responsible to account. The same priorities were in place when it came to the murder of Iraqis.

A document dated July 24, 2006, exposed a directive by a Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Johnson, Jr., requiring that, as posted by WikiLeaks, “No classified evidence be introduced into the Article 32 hearing of four soldiers. Private First Class Corey R. Clagett, Specialist William B. Hunsaker, Staff Sergeant Raymond L. Girouard, and Specialist Juston R. Graber executed three unarmed Iraqi detainees and attempted to make the incident look like an escape attempt, as reported in media coverage of the subsequent court martial.”

WikiLeaks also published an appeal by Johnson against a report by Michael D. Steele in which Johnson is not selected for promotion. Steele was the commanding officer of the four accused soldiers, all of whom later testified that Steele had given the order to “kill all military-age men.”[25]

These are just a few examples of how the US empire operated in Iraq, providing a clear display of how it operates on a regional level. In general, the Iraq cables show us the myriad methods the US used to bring its new subjects of empire to heel, along with the nefarious tactics employed to conceal, obfuscate, or “spin” the truth.
Never before has an empire had its inner workings so clearly revealed as when WikiLeaks decided to make these cables, memos, and other documents publicly available. As was revealed by WikiLeaks, US policies in Iraq were largely responsible for the disintegration of Iraq that we are witnessing today.


1. Dahr Jamail, “Iraq War Vet: ‘We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us,'” Truthout, April 7, 2010,

2. Just Foreign Policy estimates 1,455,590 Iraqi deaths as a result of the US-led invasion and occupation, as of April 26, 2014.

3. FM 3-05.130.

4. FM 3-05.130.

5. Dahr Jamail, “The Dirty War,” Truthout, July 9, 2009,

6. Dahr Jamail, “Govt. Death Squads Ravaging Baghdad,” Inter Press Service, October 19, 2006.

7. Dahr Jamail, “Baghdad Slipping into Civil War,” Inter Press Service, April 19, 2006.

8. Dahr Jamail, “Partition Fears Begin to Rise,” Inter Press Service, July 16, 2007.

9. Dahr Jamail, “A Tale of One City, Now Two,” Inter Press Service, November 12, 2007.

10. Dahr Jamail, “Iran Ties Weaken Government Further,” Inter Press Service, August 13, 2007.

11. Dahr Jamail, “Kurds and Shia Fight for Power in Baghdad,” Inter Press Service, May 29, 2007.

12. Dahr Jamail, “Skeptical After Second Shrine Attack,” Inter Press Service, June 20, 2007.

13. Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Detainees Describe Torture in Secret Jail,” April 27, 2010, at

14. Dahr Jamail, “‘Illegal’ Execution Enrages Arabs,” Inter Press Service, January 2, 2007.

15. Philip Dermer, “The ‘Sons of Iraq,’ Abandoned by Their American Allies,” Wall Street Journal, 1 July 2014.

16. Ibid.

17. Dahr Jamail, “‘Awakening’ Forces Arouse New Conflicts,” Inter Press Service, December 26, 2007.

18. “WikiLeaks: Iraq War Logs ‘Reveal Truth about Conflict,'” BBC, October 23, 2010.

19. WikiLeaks, “Revealed: Pentagon’s Link to Iraqi Torture Centres,” March 6, 2013, at

20. Ibid.

21. Human Rights Watch, “US: Abu Ghraib Only the ‘Tip of the Iceberg,'” April 28, 2005, at

22. Amnesty International, “Iraq: A Decade of Abuses,” March 11, 2013, at

23. WikiLeaks, “Classified Memo from US Maj. Gen. Kelly Confirms Fallujah Gulag,” March 26, 2008, at

24. Human Rights Watch, World Report 2010, at

25. WikiLeaks, “Murder in Iraq: US Army Protective Order for Article 32 Investigation, Jul 24, 2006,” February 9, 2009.

Copyright of (2015) of Dahr Jamail. Not to be reposted without permission of the publisher, Verso Books.