The former CIA Director David Petraeus was appointed to key military posts under Obama and played an active role in Trump’s transition to the Presidency, despite leaked memos revealing that he was involved in human rights abuses in Iraq back in 2010.
David Petraeus’ career since the abuses took place has spanned national intelligence, military command, senior fellowships and honorary professorial roles at Universities, and investment banking.
Most recently he has been tipped as a potential successor to Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor, following the recent scandal surrounding Flynn’s discourse with a Russian ambassador during the final days of the Obama administration. An anonymous White House source told the Huffington post that ‘folks would be much more comfortable with Petraeus’ instead of the interim appointment Keith Kellogg.
The 2010 Iraq War Logs provided evidence that his ‘eyes and ears’ in Iraq , James Coffman, was complicit in the training of Iraqi commando units that ran torture centres.
Coffman reported directly to Petraeus and was described as being his closest adviser during his time as head of the United States Central Command in Iraq. Coffman and his colleague James Steele were confirmed as being both aware and compliant of torture taking place under the commando units that they administered by their former colleague Muntadher Al-Samari in a joint BBC/Guardian investigation.
The photographer Gilless Peress confirmed that special advisers to both Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were present in the detention centers whilst US troops tortured detainees. He described seeing ‘blood everywhere’ whilst interviewing Colonel Steele.
The reporter Peter Maass also confirmed the presence of advisers to US command during the torture of an inmate:
“And while this interview was going on with a Saudi jihadi with Jim Steele also in the room, there were these terrible screams, somebody shouting: ‘Allah, Allah, Allah!’ But it wasn’t kind of religious ecstasy or something like that, these were screams of pain and terror.”
Petraeus was unaffected by the investigation. In the years following the revelations he was made Director of the CIA and was briefly mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.
He resigned from his CIA post a year after being charged with sharing classified information with a biographer with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Prosecutors didn’t file felony charges that could have put him in prison for years; instead he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
The Shi’ite death squads that were assembled under Petraeus’ leadership provoked a brutal sectarian war that killed tens of thousands and left four million people displaced. Eight years later, ISIS assembled and easily assumed power in the divided region.
The militias were armed and trained similarly to those set up by the CIA in Central America in order to combat the rise of left-wing populist governments that stifled US interests. Stress positions and waterboarding – techniques that were developed by the CIA over a decade – were used on Sunni insurgents and Kurdish separatists.
As recently as November, Amnesty International produced a report detailing the use of torture by Iraqi paramilitaries.
Petraeus and Coffman first worked together during the El Salvadorian civil war in 1986. Petraeus, then a Ph.D candidate at West Point and a young Major in the forces, studied and implemented new counterinsurgency methods which he described as ‘dirty tactics’.
The US drive in El Salvador was influential to the creation of the Wolf Brigade set-up by Coffman in Iraq some thirty years later. This ‘Freedom Brigade’ mostly consisted of former troops of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard that were handed a fresh platform to terrorize the same group of people, fighting alongside mercenaries – a military structure that was born during Coffman’s and Petraeus’ exploits in the dirty wars of El Salvador.
Despite various sources including the Wikileaks Torture Memos providing hard evidence that US use of torture on insurgents was systematic and methodical, the only high-ranking military personnel to be reprimanded for abuses was Brigadier General Janis Karpinski in 2004, who was briefly suspended and then demoted. Bizarrely, part of her trial also included charges for shoplifting cosmetics.
Petraeus refused to answer journalists regarding the BBC/Guardian investigation that condemned his close colleagues. Last year he stated that waterboarding was ‘very wrong’ and he did not believe that Donald Trump would bring it back despite his comments in favor of the interrogation technique.
Wikileaks Decrypted | David Petraeus | US Torture | Michael Flynn | National Security Advisor