Monday, 25 October 2010
ISOF: How to make a torturer
When Greece was finally restored to the principles of democracy it helped found, the inner working of one of Europe's most brutal military regimes was revealed. For seven years The Colonels had used their security services to suppress behavior they considered socially unacceptable. With no civil rights to speak of, torture was routine for political dissidents and rock music fans alike.
Once sanity and human rights were restored the Greeks launched one of the most thorough investigations ever into how torturers operate. One result was the award winning film Your Neighbour's Son. In the film we get to meet Michalis Petrou, a recruit to the ESA who rose to become one of the country's top two torturers. The other one was apparently a Grade A psychopath, but even Petrou's victims acknowledge that he was really just a regular guy made into a monster by the system.
The recent Wikileaks Iraq War Diaries have showed how US approved torture didn't end in 1974. A repeating meme in the logs is how US and British forces repeatedly turned a blind eye, and even handed suspects over for interrogation to known abusers.
Key operators in this brutal trade were the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF). A US trained unit distinguished by their balaclavas and US equipment, recruited solely for the purpose of internal security. This article by Shane Bauer in The Nation last year was written before the War Logs were released, but in it shows how the same techniques used by the ESA have been used in making the ISOF.
Firstly recruits are taken in young and naive. The ESA recruited from the Greek countryside and the ISOF, it seems, from the Iraqi desert. We don't now how exactly they were trained, but we can have a guess that similar dehumanising and desensitising techniques were used. Certainly when the ISOF were released onto the streets they were subsequently given the same direct political control, and freedom from all legal controls, as the ESA. The Colonels ran their agents directly, as do the Iraqi politicians.
So seven years after Saddam Hussein was toppled from power Iraq seems to be back where it began, under the control of politically controlled torture squads. The only difference appears to be that, compared with the ISOF, Saddam's lot were amateurs.