London — President Barack Obama stepped into the White House pledging to end George W. Bush’s gloves-off approach to interrogations and detention — but a flood of leaked documents suggests that some old habits were hard to break.
Field reports from the Iraq war published by WikiLeaks show that, despite Obama’s public commitment to eschew torture, U.S. forces turned detainees over to Iraqi forces even after signs of abuse.
Documents also show that U.S. interrogators continued to question Iraqi detainees, some of whom were still recovering from injuries or whose wounds were still visible after being held by Iraqi security forces.
“We have not turned a blind eye,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday, noting that one of the reasons why U.S. troops were still in Iraq was to carry out human rights training with Iraqi security forces. “Our troops were obligated to report abuses to appropriate authorities and to follow up, and they did so in Iraq.”
Crowley added, “If there needs to be an accounting, first and foremost there needs to be an accounting by the Iraqi government itself, and how it has treated its own citizens.”
Obama signed three executive orders shortly after taking office, vowing to return America to the “moral high ground” in the war on terrorism.
The implication was that the United States would do more to make sure terror suspects weren’t tortured or abused — either at the hands of U.S. forces or by governing authorities to whom the detainees were handed over for detention or interrogation.
WikiLeaks recently published almost 400,000 U.S. military logs, mainly written by soldiers on the ground, detailing daily carnage in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion: detainees abused by Iraqi forces, insurgent bombings, sectarian executions and civilians shot at checkpoints by U.S. troops.
In one leaked document from a U.S. military intelligence report filed Feb. 9, 2009 — just weeks after Obama ordered U.S. personnel to comply with the Geneva Conventions — an Iraqi says he was detained by coalition forces at his Baghdad home and told he would be sent to the Iraqi army if he didn’t cooperate. According to the document, the detainee was then handed over to Iraqis where he said he was beaten and given electric shocks.