Someone needs to send a boat up the Tigris and bring Anne Garrels back for a little journalism refresher course. Garrels, investigating the forces of Muqtada al-Sadr, tells us that "his militia leaders say Iran is their chief source of weapons. But now these same leaders are saying Iran is creating big problems by supporting renegade and competing militias with very effective weapons." And what do you know, but NPR got an invitation (I wonder if it was on parchment paper with a deckled edge?) from "the head of Sadr's militia in the western side of Baghdad...to an interrogation session of three of these renegade Sadr militiamen." The rest of this report is truly shocking.
Maj. General Garrels states, "In the Sadr safe house the three detainees had clearly been tortured and the story they told was that they were trained in roadside bombs and car bombings in Iran. They say they worked for money and that their orders were to attack Americans and sow suspicion and violence between Shiites and Sunni."
Inskeep, interviewing Garrels, chimes in at this point to ask, "How were they tortured?"
To which Garrels responds, "There was blood all over their clothes. They were in such bad shape they couldn't walk; they had to be dragged onto the chairs, and one of them was just sobbing."
If you are a humane, compassionate person, you might think that at this point there is NOT ONE SHRED of validity to any of the confessions that these three torture victims give. But in fact Garrels reports at length about the testimony that these men give. She tells us "they said they went into a contested area of Baghdad, pretended they were Sunnis, raped a Shiite girl....also said they killed local Sadr militia leaders...also say they use American troops to further their ends....they said they're doing this for money on orders of Iranian agents working out of Badrwadjasan [sp?] on the Iraq-Iran border. They said their mission was to create an unstable Iraq."
I sometimes think that I'm pretty jaded, but then I hear a piece like this and am aghast. Garrels, Inskeep and NPR is normalizing torture, and treating testimony extracted under torture as valid and informative.
A secondary point worth noting is Garrels sloppy, misleading statements at the beginning of the piece. Of Muqtada al-Sadr she says, "Now Sadr has...been spending months in Iran apparently seeking safe haven there and his militia leaders say Iran is their chief source of weapons." Juan Cole has commented on the brazen US military propaganda nature of this unsubstantiated and unlikely scenario on February 14, 2007 and then on August 21, 2007 when he cited this interview in The Independent.