[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 Washingtons U.S. belief in
human dignitya phrase he used no less than 10 times in his speechwas
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
administrations 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 Naseers 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
halfapparently 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
The Afghan military has requested an explanation of the incident from the
U.S. military authorities, according to the attorney generals report, but, as of
the time of Bushs 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 Rices hometown
and from which the hawkish group that has surrounded Bush since the
election campaign in 2000the Vulcansderives its name).
Consistent with Kaplans 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 meetingthat is, 10 days into the victims
captivityCrazy 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.
Its 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 Naseers older brother. He
testified that after Naseers 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 brothers
Naseers death was never officially reported up the chain of command, so
that the Pentagons 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
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 incidentand particularly the fact that it was
carried out over almost two weekscertainly 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
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
spotlightwhich, of course, is precisely what the Bush administration has
tried to dois all to the good, according to Kaplans 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
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
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 werent, 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
(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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