The Guardian has released a documentary on American operative in Iraq, James Steele, which appeared on BBC. From the related news story in the Guardian:
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.
Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.
After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.
A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.
Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.
The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that 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.
The Real News Network interviewed the executive producer of the documentary, Maggie O’Kane. From her conversation with Paul Jay:
JAY: One of the things that emerges for me is that in the United States especially, the narrative here is that the primary role of the American forces after overthrowing Saddam Hussein was to try to prevent civil war, not add fuel to it. And at the very least, it seems to me, your investigation makes the case that through the activities of Colonel Steele, fuel was added, if not more than that.
O’KANE: Well, I think what our investigation is saying–and I think it shows quite clearly that a decision was made, not by retired colonel Steele, but very much by the political hierarchy in the United States, by Donald Rumsfeld, by General Petraeus, that actually in order to combat the insurgency that was rising up unexpectedly against the Americans, in order to combat that insurgency, which was mainly Sunni, you would–they decided to arm what was essentially a Shia force called the special police commandos.
Now, when you make a decision that you’re going to take a sectarian force in a country that has been rife with sectarian conflict and you decide to pour arms and ammunition and support into a group that is clearly on one side, then you’re opening up a very, very dangerous tinderbox. Now, whether or not that was the intention or whether or not that was a byproduct that the United States didn’t think about, then their main aim, as we understand it, was to stop the attacks on American soldiers at whatever the price.
I hope you will watch the documentary in full
If you have trouble viewing the embedded version, you can also see it on YouTube