It’s widely believed that the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan which has so far caused a civilian death toll of 3 million (and counting)* should be branded as the “war crimes and crimes against humanity”. Do you agree with the proposal?

Well, to be fair, the invasion of Afghanistan had the backing of the UN** even if the decision to equate the Taliban with al-Qaeda was a fundamental intelligence failure, and one which contributed significantly to Guantanamo being a prison full of people with no intelligence value whatsoever.

However, the invasion of Iraq was of course, neither backed by the UN nor legal in any other sense, and was, instead, an almost bewilderingly stupid manifestation of a policy of regime change and nation-building, masquerading as an act of self-defense, and based on severely manipulated intelligence reports. As a result, it can be added to the crimes of the Bush administration, but, as with all the other crimes, what concerns me most at present is how Barack Obama can find a way to undo the damage caused by the previous administration as swiftly and effectively as possible, while also making sure that it is substantially more difficult in future, to embark on an illegal war in the first place and I’d also like to see the same constraints applied in the UK, where, effectively, one man, Tony Blair, and a cowed Cabinet led the UK to join the United States in its disastrous neo-colonial invasion and occupation, despite widespread opposition from the public.

Finally, would you please explicate about the results of your investigations into the cases of Guantanamo prison and give us some information on the number of prisoners, nationalities and the employed torturing methods?

779 prisoners have been held at Guantanamo in total, from 42 different countries, including Iran. Of these, 242 are still held, 532 have been released, and five have died.

The means of torture which were, effectively, less severe manifestations of the techniques used on Mohammed al-Qahtani, and which were applied to at least a hundred prisoners¬† included “stripping detainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, disrupting their sleep, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures,” as a Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded in December. What was extraordinary and inexplicable about the approval for these techniques is that they were reverse engineered for use on terror suspects based on techniques taught in US military schools to train US personnel to resist interrogation if captured, and were, explicitly, drawn from Chinese Communist torture techniques used in the Korean War to elicit false confessions!

As the Senate Committee report stated, incredulously, “The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

__________

Just Foreign Policy estimates the civilian death toll in Iraq to be more than 1.3 million. See the website for details and methodology. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no comprehensive study of civilian deaths as a result of the war in Afghanistan, but it is likely to be in the tens of thousands, not millions. For instance, the first conservative estimate in early 2002 put the number of civilian deaths at 3,800 in the first three months of the war. The U.N. estimated that 2,100 civilians were killed in 2008.

** Editor’s note: The invasion of Afghanistan was carried out unilaterally by the U.S., beginning on October 7, 2001, without authorization from the U.N. Security Council as required under the U.N. Charter.