[Mb-civic] "Crazy Mike" in "Indian Country"

ean at sbcglobal.net ean at sbcglobal.net
Thu Sep 30 15:06:36 PDT 2004

“Crazy Mike” in “Indian Country”

By Jim Lobe | September 28, 2004

Editor: John Gershman, Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC)

The reason why Washington is having such a difficult time persuading the 
world of its good faith and its good works in the “war on terror” was best 
illustrated on the day U.S. President George W. Bush went to the United 

While he told the UN General Assembly that Washington’s U.S. belief in 
“human dignity”—a phrase he used no less than 10 times in his speech—was 
the main U.S. motivation for pursuing the war, two articles that appeared in 
two major U.S. newspapers the same morning offered the delegates an 
altogether different subtext. 

The first piece, titled “Indian Country,” was written by one of the 
administration’s geo-strategic gurus, Robert D. Kaplan, a favorite of national 
security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and published on the staunchly hawkish 
editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. 

Kaplan, who is writing a series of books about the U.S. military, extolled U.S. 
Special Forces operating in small units from “forward operating bases” 
(FOBs) without direction from any “Washington bureaucracy” and outside the 
scrutiny of the global media as the new perfect weapon in the thankless task 
of protecting civilization against the barbarians at the gates. 

As “in the days of fighting the Indians,” wrote Kaplan, “the smaller the tactical 
unit, the more forward deployed it is, and the more autonomy it enjoys from 
the chain of command, the more that can be accomplished.” 

Unbeknownst to Kaplan and, presumably, to Bush as well, the Los Angeles 
Times that same morning published a front-page article that showed just how 
much could be accomplished by such units in faraway FOBs. 

“Crazy Mike” in Afghanistan 

Based on reports by a UN team, the Washington-based Crimes of War 
Project, and the office of the Afghan Armed Forces attorney general, the 
Times described how U.S. Special Forces at one FOB in southeastern 
Afghanistan last year beat and tortured eight Afghan soldiers over no less 
than 17 days, until one of their victims, 18-year-old Jamal Naseer, died. 

The eight were taken to the Special Forces FOB near Gardez on Mar. 1, 
2003, after they were seized while manning a security checkpoint amid 
reports, apparently planted by local faction leaders competing for U.S. 
support, that Afghan army units in the area were selling arms to the Taliban. 

According to the consistent testimony of the men, they were “pummeled, 
kicked, karate-chopped, hung upside down and struck repeatedly with sticks, 
rubber hoses and plastic-covered cables,” the Times reported. “Some said 
they were immersed in cold water, then made to lie in the snow. Some said 
they were kept blindfolded for long periods and subjected to electric shocks 
to their toes.” 

During their ordeal, they were never given medical help or even provided with 
a change of clothes. For 17 days. 

After Naseer’s death, his battered body and the seven survivors were handed 
over to local Afghan police by a Special Forces commander who threatened 
to kill the police chief if he released any of the prisoners, according to an 
official of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), who 
witnessed the warning. 

They were held at the local jail with as many as 13 other in-mates in a “secret 
detention room” that was built for five for the next month and a 
half—apparently until their wounds had healed. UNAMA, however, 
interviewed them during their stay and found that their injuries were 
consistent with their testimony. 

They were finally transferred to a prison near Kabul and released after 
authorities there found no evidence that they had committed any crimes or 
had ties to anti-government groups. The prison also referred the case to the 
attorney general. 

The Afghan military has requested an explanation of the incident from the 
U.S. military authorities, according to the attorney general’s report, but, as of 
the time of Bush’s speech to the UN, had received no response. The 
Pentagon announced that it has launched a criminal investigation. 

Investigators told the Times, however, they did not know who precisely was 
running the Gardez base, other than units from the 20th Special Forces 
Group based in Birmingham, Alabama (which, ironically, is Rice’s hometown 
and from which the hawkish group that has surrounded Bush since the 
election campaign in 2000—“the Vulcans”—derives its name). 

Consistent with Kaplan’s notion that the Special Forces should operate as 
independently as possible from Washington bureaucrats, however, an Army 
detective in Kabul told the Times, “There are no records... There are no 
SOPs (standard operating procedures)... and each unit acts differently.” 

“Mike,” the name used by the commanding officer of the FOB at the time, is a 
common pseudonym for intelligence and Special Forces officers working in 
Afghanistan, although this particular “Mike” apparently stood out for his 
aggressiveness, because at least one of his fellow soldiers referred to him as 
“Crazy Mike,” the Times reported. 

At a March 10, 2003 meeting—that is, 10 days into the victims’ 
captivity—“Crazy Mike” attended a security meeting sponsored by UNAMA in 
Gardez during which he warned local Afghan commanders that he would kill 
any of them if they released prisoners taken by his unit. 

It’s unclear whether “Crazy Mike” was also the commander who threatened 
the local police chief with death if he released the prisoners or if he only had 
to give that one warning, as seems more likely. 

The commander of the detained Afghan unit was Naseer’s older brother. He 
testified that after Naseer’s death, there was an argument between two U.S. 
officers during which one grabbed the other by the collar and said that 
Naseer should have been shot rather than tortured. One U.S. officer offered 
condolences and money, which was refused, according to the brother’s 

Naseer’s death was never officially reported up the chain of command, so 
that the Pentagon’s recent report in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal that 
a total of 39 detainees have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan now 
appears incomplete. 

How incomplete is, of course, unknown, and the incident at Gardez may, 
indeed, be another case of a “few rotten apples” that the administration has 
tried blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. 

On the other hand, this latest incident—and particularly the fact that it was 
carried out over almost two weeks—certainly adds to the impression that 
abuses of detainees were indeed far more pervasive than the administration 
has ever admitted. (They also lend credence to the case presented by 
Jonathan Idema, the former Special Forces officer, recently sentenced by an 
Afghan judge to eight to ten years in prison for running a “private jail” and 
torturing prisoners, that he was acting with the knowledge and authority of the 
Defense Department.) 

Kaplan, whose 2001 best-selling book, Warrior Politics: Why Leadership 
Demands a Pagan Ethos, extolled waging war without mercy, has long 
argued that maintaining global order is a rough business and that even 
“successful” wars like those against the Indians or the U.S. counter-
insurgency campaign in the Philippines a century ago inevitably lead to 
excesses. The extent that they can be kept out of the media 
spotlight—which, of course, is precisely what the Bush administration has 
tried to do—is all to the good, according to Kaplan’s perspective. 

“In Indian country, as one general officer told me, you want to whack bad 
guys quietly and cover your tracks with humanitarian-aid projects,” Kaplan 
wrote Tuesday. 

“The red Indian metaphor is one with which a liberal policy nomenklatura may 
be uncomfortable,” Kaplan went on, “but Army and Marine field officers have 
embraced it because it captures perfectly the combat challenge of the early 
21st century.” 

Noting that it was the great Victorian leader, William Gladstone, who called 
on British troops to protect “the sanctity of life in the hill villages of 
Afghanistan,” Kaplan stressed that U.S. leaders must also appeal to the 
idealism of their citizens in another article he wrote last year on U.S. 

“Americans are truly idealistic by nature, but even if we weren’t, our historical 
and geographical circumstances necessitate that U.S. foreign policy be robed 
in idealism,” Kaplan wrote in the same article. “And yet security concerns 
necessarily make our foreign policy more pagan.” 

“Speak Victorian, Think Pagan,” he advised U.S. policymakers. And, thus, 
while Bush drawled on and on about “human dignity,” the assembled 
delegates in the hall may well have been thinking of “Crazy Mike,” out there in 
“Indian Country.” 

(Jim Lobe is a political analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus, online at 
www.fpif.org. He also writes regularly for Inter Press Service.)


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