eyes on the U.S.

America's Recurring Victims Of Torture, From Nazis To Al Qaeda

After World War II, it was SS prisoners in Germany's Landsberg prison. After 9-11, it was Guantanamo. The U.S. repeats its sins, but also repeats its repentance.

At Guantanamo
At Guantanamo
Torsten Krauel

-OpEd-

BERLIN — The U.S. Senate report on torture contains repulsive details about mock executions, interrogations of suspects with an electric drill placed threateningly near their backsides, five days of sleep deprivation.

Sixty-five years ago, another congressional committee published similar details — and that had consequences. The details concerned the brutal methods of U.S. military investigators against imprisoned Nazis, particularly former members of the SS.

The consequences? A number of verdicts against the Nazis were reversed. Many SS perpetrators serving sentences in Landsberg prison were set free, all because the interrogations — and hence the verdicts — did not abide by American legal standards.

Measured against that, the new report should lead to the remaining Guantánamo detainees being freed. But that's not likely to happen for several reasons. While the Nazis had been defeated by the time of the report 65 years ago, al-Qaeda is still very much intact. A second reason is that al-Qaeda deliberately attacked American civilians in 2001, which is why Congress unanimously approved a harsh reaction against it. Finally, the report is too politically controversial for it to serve the White House as a guiding principle.

The Republicans are furious because they believe the Democrats were trying to evade joint Congressional responsibility for the anti-terror battle that began after Sept. 11. The Democrats, what with President Barack Obama's deployment of drones, have their own thorny legal issue to deal with. And nobody — in view of ISIS terror and Russian President Vladimir Putin's policies — wants to go out all guns blazing against the secret intelligence services. Consensus looks possible, and that would involve agreeing to view the report as a "never again" warning and focusing on moving forward.

The same hope of setting a standard for intelligence services proved deceitful after 1950, deceitful after the CIA revelations of the 1970s — and the deceit continues still. There are situations where feelings determine behavior. The only wish fulfilled here is that America remains more open than others about its mistakes and crimes.

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Geopolitics

The New Iraq, Signs Of Hope Amid The Rubble And Reconstruction

How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future.

Street scene in Erbil, Iraq

Théophile Simon

BAGHDAD — With a vast office located at the top of a tower fiercely guarded by the army and a bell to call the staff, Khalid Hamza Abbas is obviously a powerful character, decked out in an impeccable suit. Abbas runs the Basra Oil Company (BOC), the national company responsible for the exploitation of the oil fields in the province of Basra, in the very south of Iraq, from which four million barrels of crude oil flow daily. It’s the equivalent of 4% of world demand and 65% of central government revenue concentrated in a region of only four million inhabitants.

As he explains the profit-sharing scheme between the world’s major oil companies and his public enterprise, the 50-year-old with thin glasses is suddenly stopped dead in his tracks by the ringing of his telephone. He tries a joke to mask his suddenly worried face: "I'm going to ask you to leave my office for a few moments. If I haven't called you back in 10 minutes, call the police."

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