by Tom Carter
July 5, 2011
As part of its cover-up of
Bush administration war crimes, the Obama
administration announced June 30 that it would shut down 99 investigations
into deaths of prisoners in US custody during the so-called “war on terror,”
leaving only two investigations with the potential to develop into criminal
The announcement underscores the fact that the anti-democratic policies
developed during the presidency of
George W. Bush continue unchallenged under President
Obama, who is doing everything in his power to keep the lid
on the crimes of his predecessor.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration quickly
and quietly erected a network of secret prisons and “black sites,” where
opponents of US imperialism in the Middle East - as well as, in many cases,
their friends, relatives and acquaintances - were jailed, tortured and
The Obama administration has continued and
expanded the anti-democratic methods of the Bush administration, including,
the use of presidential assassination
indefinite detention without trial or
blocking court cases that threaten to
prosecution of whistle-blowers
“rendition” of alleged terrorists to
countries that practice torture
open violations of US and international
law, including the War Powers Act in the case of Libya and the
Geneva Conventions more generally
the maintenance of illegal torture camps
such as the infamous facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
The administration’s 101 investigations into
torture deaths were a token measure to begin with.
The investigations were initiated in 2009 and
were designed to placate popular disgust with torture and other crimes
carried out under Bush.
The 101 cases by no means include every death in US custody, and rather
conveniently, no case in which the torture victim survived was selected for
investigation. The investigations proceeded on the explicit basis that the
infamous Bush Justice Department torture memos would not be challenged.
the Bush-era policy of “enhanced interrogation” (a euphemism
The only question that was to be pursued in the
investigations was whether the Central Intelligence Agency operatives in the
101 selected death cases had violated Bush administration guidelines.
Saddled with such limitations from the outset, the investigations could
barely scratch the surface of
government-sanctioned war crimes.
Echoing Obama’s mantra of “looking forward, not backward,” Attorney General
Holder announced June 30 that 99 of the 101 cases did not warrant further
“I welcome the news that the broader
inquiries are behind us,” remarked Leon Panetta, who left his post as
CIA director July 1 to become secretary of defense. “We are now finally
about to close this chapter of our agency’s history,” he added.
Panetta was referring not to closing the chapter
in which torture took place, but closing the chapter in which the agency’s
practices were subjected to any form of official scrutiny.
While the two ongoing investigations remain officially secret, some details
have been leaked to the press.
One case involves the murder of a prisoner at
Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq; the other case involves a murder at the secret
CIA “Salt Pit” prison in Afghanistan. These two cases are remarkable both
for the shocking brutality of the murders themselves as well as for the
cold-blooded “business as usual” attitude of the CIA operatives involved.
Only the most depraved intellect could have designed the nightmarish “Salt
Pit,” located northeast of the Kabul, Afghanistan airport, in which a young
Afghan man named Gul Rahman was murdered on November 20, 2002.
Ghairat Baheer, a physician and son-in-law of an Afghan political figure
associated with opposition to the US occupation, survived the Salt Pit and
gave a chilling account to the press of the conditions surrounding Rahman’s
death. Baheer and Rahman were old friends, and they were abducted by CIA
operatives at around the same time in October, 2002.
They were taken together to the Salt Pit for
The CIA chose an abandoned brick factory for the installation. According to
Baheer, an unimaginable stench permeated the Salt Pit, where prisoners were
kept in windowless cells with metal buckets for latrines. Prisoners called
it the “dark prison” because there were no windows and no electric lights.
Prisoners spent much of their time in total darkness. The CIA operatives
running the prison wore full face masks and used medieval-type torches to
make their way through the blackness. In many cells, prisoners were shackled
naked to the rough walls with metal chains. No expense was spared to ensure
maximum ghoulish terror.
Baheer said he was forced to sleep naked on a rough concrete floor next to
his latrine bucket, when he was not chained to the wall of his cell. The
cell was perpetually dark.
CIA operatives took turns repeatedly torturing the two men. Among the
countless horrors, the two men would be tied to chairs, their torturers
would sit on their stomachs, threaten to kill them, stage mock executions,
beat them, or douse them with water and leave them to freeze naked in the
According to Baheer, Rahman was stubborn and defiant during the
interrogations. The details of the events of the morning of November 20,
2002 are still unclear, but it is known that at some point Rahman’s captors
stripped him naked below the waist, shackled his hands over his head,
brutally beat him, and then doused him with water.
Within hours, Rahman had died of hypothermia.
The Salt Pit prison was closed last year after it became the subject of
international scrutiny and survivors began to describe to the press the
hideous terrors that took place inside. In closing the prison, the CIA no
doubt also had in mind the destruction of any physical evidence of the
crimes that had been committed there.
The CIA appears overall to have regarded the Salt Pit as a successful
operation. According to information leaked to the Associated Press, the CIA
Kabul station chief has been promoted at least three times since Rahman’s
The second of the two ongoing investigations involves the murder of Manadel
al-Jamadi at the hands of CIA operatives in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison
in Iraq on November 4, 2003.
Jamadi, an alleged insurgent, was abducted violently from his house outside
Baghdad in 2003 by Navy SEALs - the same feared and secretive military force
that has been lauded in the bourgeois media for the murder of Osama Bin
Laden. Apparently, Navy SEALs pursued Jamadi into his kitchen, where he made
a ferocious last stand, toppling his stove onto one of the SEALs.
In retaliation, the SEALs beat him savagely
before turning him over to the CIA for interrogation at Abu Ghraib.
Naturally, no trial or legal process of any kind was involved in this
Forty-five minutes after he walked into Abu Ghraib, Jamadi was dead. It
appears that once he arrived, Jamadi was subjected to further beatings and
was chained to the wall, after which he lost consciousness and asphyxiated.
Jamadi’s bruised and bloodstained corpse is
featured in a number of the infamous Abu Ghraib photos, with grinning US
military personnel standing over him and giving the “thumbs up.”
For as yet unexplained reasons, Jamadi’s corpse was packed in ice and stored
in a shower in an attempt to prevent decomposition (military officials
jokingly referred to him as “the Iceman”), and CIA officials mysteriously
attached an intravenous tube to one of his arms before whisking the corpse
out of the facility the following day.
It appears that not long after Jamadi’s death a
heated dispute broke out between the CIA and the Navy SEALs over which
organization would take the blame. CIA operatives at Abu Ghraib rapidly
moved to destroy all of the evidence of Jamadi’s death, including a
bloodstained hood, and they scrubbed clean the death chamber.
While the Rahman and Jamadi murders constitute only the tip of the iceberg,
they expose the day-to-day reality of CIA operations in occupied Iraq and
The CIA, tasked with discovering and silently
“taking out” opponents of the occupations, operates outside the bounds of US
and international law. When a federal court ordered the CIA to release 92
video tapes of “enhanced interrogations” in 2005, the CIA responded by
destroying the tapes, a brazenly criminal maneuver for which no official to
this day has been prosecuted.
The decision by the Obama administration to shut down virtually all of its
investigations is a clear signal that the war crimes will continue. Indeed,
in the bourgeois press, Holder’s announcement last Thursday was generally
interpreted as a green light from the Obama administration to resume and
escalate the practice of torture and murder of political opponents in the
The headline of an article in the Washington
Post read, “Could
Torture Make a Comeback?”
A deeply reactionary and chilling editorial in the Wall Street Journal,
the CIA: Ending a Disgraceful Investigation,” went further.
Gloating over Holder’s announcement, the editors declared,
“The disgrace is that this probe was ever
The editors continued,
“The probe has still done considerable harm
by creating a culture of second-guessing and political retribution that
CIA operatives must now consider as they try to protect against terror
Translated from the euphemistic language of the
so-called “war on terror” into plain English, this means that the
intelligence agencies should be permitted to go about the grisly work of
torturing and murdering their enemies in secret without any restrictions or
The fact that this view enjoys wide support within the ruling class should
be taken as a dire warning.
How will this same ruling class respond to the
development of a popular movement within the US that directly challenges its