Trump National Security Advisor Accused of Violating Human Rights
Hundreds of detainees in the custody of General HR McMaster received inhuman treatment, according to a US military police officer
Former United States Army Colonel Arnaldo Claudio recalls that when he approached hundreds of men who were kneeling on the sand in the desert sun of Iraq, handcuffed with others, their clothes stained with excrement and urine, Some of them inclined their heads.
“Like they did not want to see me like they saw me in another hangman. Here comes another person who is going to do me more harm, “Claudio said, recalling the scene he encountered in 2005 at the US military camp in the remote village of Tal Afar, north of Iraq.
Claudius was then the highest authority in Iraq in disciplinary investigations of the armies participating in the joint force following the US invasion in March 2003. One of his duties as head of the military police was to ensure that all detainees were prosecuted legally.
The 800-900 detainees he found, he said, were under the direct custody of then-lieutenant Herbert R. McMaster whom President Donald Trump appointed as the new national security adviser.
McMaster, 54, has been praised as the best military man of his generation and several strategists have highlighted his ability to gain the confidence of the Iraqi civilian population in order to obtain intelligence and ensure the safety of his soldiers.
But what Claudio claims he saw on that day in April 2005 has been hidden from McMaster’s biography, he said. Accompanied by other soldiers aboard a vehicle Hummer approached a place of the military base where there were about 200 to 300 detained in rows next to tents of fallen stores.
The men, almost all young, were tied together with plastic handcuffs. They had a very small space to move so that the face of the one that was behind clashed with the rear hostage’s back, he said. “I began to observe what I feared. They were next to each other, under a hot sun, a breeze with dust,” he explained.
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The “human plague”
“The most horrifying was when I opened the door of my truck and the pestilence to excrement, and the plague of urine.” The human plague that was there was so rude and so [so suffocating] that one could not even breathe, “said Claudio. Some told him that they had not eaten in three days or four days. Under some tents were over 600 cramped, he said, with signs of dehydration and also handcuffed.
Claudio decided to visit the regiment after detecting an unusual increase in the number of detainees in this camp although it only had the capacity to accommodate 250. He also suspected that Lieutenant McMaster, commander of the third cavalry regiment in Tal Afar, was not forwarding detainees To official prisons but stayed with them to keep them under interrogation indefinitely.
Claudio explained that McMaster received him aggressively when he showed up at the camp cafeteria to announce the official visit. McMaster was just having a coffee sitting, remember. “Basically I get there and HR McMaster tells me: I do not know what p … you’re doing here but I want you to go. And my answer was: “I do not give a damn what you think. I am here following orders from Lieutenant General JR Vines and if I find that you are committing irregularities with the detainees, I take it from the ass here and I take it to Baghdad handcuffed. ”
McMaster, who was confirmed last week by the Senate, did not respond to calls and messages sent to the White House by Univision. Two senators consulted on whether this episode had been aired during confirmation hearings did not respond.
Lieutenant General Vines did not answer. Another military man who participated in the investigative commission of Tal Afar and preferred not to identify himself for fear of reprisals confirmed to Univision that the treatment of detainees was inhuman. “They were not only tied together but when they let them go to the latrine they beat them with a stick,” he said.
For Claudio, 61, the situation of the detainees had the appearance of torture. “I have been a military police officer for more than 30 years. I know the Vienna Convention. I know all that the Army and the Department of Defense tell you how a detainee will treat, for me they were being tortured, “he said.
On the other hand, Univision requested the opinion of the situation described by Claudio to Human Rights Watch, who answered:
“How can you go and handcuff one person side by side for days, and let them defib, urinate on them, not take a shower, not feed them?”
Good Conduct Program
Andrea Prasow, deputy director of the organization’s Washington office, said the allegations describe conduct that possibly violated the Vienna Convention and the Convention on Torture. “They should have been fully investigated and in a transparent manner … it is not too late for a thorough investigation and if it is appropriate to set responsibilities and compensate victims.”
Claudio said that as soon as he realized the situation, he questioned the military man in charge of the camp. “What are you doing? I told them. And a lieutenant colonel came out and said, “I’m following orders.” But from whom? I asked. And it tells me “HR. McMaster”. And I told them “but they are crazy, it is unheard of what is happening here.”
Through testimony, Claudio learned that the soldiers were applying a “good behavior program” which consisted in releasing only those detainees who provided useful intelligence information. At the end of his visit, Claudio sought out McMaster, as he related, but was informed that he was not at the camp.
Claudio said he ordered the plastic wives to be removed from the detainees and fed. In 24 hours, 120 were released and another 400 in the next three weeks, he explained. The former colonel, who is now the general monitor of the Puerto Rico police, said he produced a report of his investigation for the Office of the Inspector General of the Army. But he said he does not know what measures the Pentagon took.
Univision asked Colonel Claudio to see the report of the investigation, but he said that military law prohibits him from sharing classified documents with the media.
A few days later, he added, officials at that office called him to ask for details but he spent time and did not hear about the outcome of his new complaint. McMaster was promoted after disapproving two revisions of a military junta. “I sincerely believe there was institutional protection,” added Claudio Kathie Scarrah, a spokeswoman for the Inspector General’s office who asked Univision for more information to locate the case denounced by Claudio but rejected the comment.
In 2008, after learning that McMaster would be promoted to Brigadier General, Claudio wrote to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense claiming that the military was not deserving of the appointment because of his background in Tal Afar, he explained.
The inspector’s office, he wrote, “provides independent, relevant and timely oversight of the Department of Defense and I can assure you that investigations are not, as Colonel Claudio says, neutralized by political interests.”
Claudio said that after trying twice with the government to have McMaster sanctioned “the third is the loser” and decided to share with Univision his frustration. Asked how he reacted when he learned that Trump had chosen McMaster, he replied, “This is a person who is going to advise the most important person in the world who is the president of the United States in matters of national security. But the thing is you can not change such a fast person. If you have the audacity to think for a minute that is above the law, how do you expect that you will not do it again? ”