We’re not sure what’s more depressing about this story alleging that CIA torture contractors may have used dogs to rape detainees in Afghanistan: The possibility that it happened, our realization that the CIA hasn’t given us any reason to think they’d never stoop to such a thing, or the dead certainty that if the allegations are proven true, there will be plenty of Americans who will not only make excuses for it, but will actually insist that using dogs to rape Muslim prisoners was a pretty clever thing to do. If it was done.
So far, the evidence is sketchy but plausible: A German writer, Juergen Todenhoefer (or Jürgen Todenhöfer if you’re more into umlauts), claims in a recent book that during a trip to Kabul, he spoke to a former Canadian solder who worked as a private security contractor at Bagram Air Force Base. The contractor, who Todenhoefer calls “Jack,” told him that eventually he couldn’t stand going back to work at Bagram:
“It’s not my thing when Afghans get raped by dogs,” Jack remarked.
Todenhoefer’s son, who was present with him in Kabul and was transcribing Jack’s words, was so startled by the comment he nearly dropped his pad and pen.
The war veteran, who loathed manipulating Western politicians even as he defended tactics of collective punishment, continued his account: Afghan prisoners were tied face down on small chairs, Jack said. Then fighting dogs entered the torture chamber.
“If the prisoners did not say anything useful, each dog got to take a turn on them,” Jack told Todenhoefer. “After procedure like these, they confessed everything. They would have even said that they killed Kennedy without even knowing who he was.”
And there is plenty of reason to doubt this story: startling claims, an anonymous source, no supporting documentation, and so on. On the other hand, we’d also like to think that the CIA would never have made a practice of pureeing a detainee’s dinner and then “rectally infusing” it — for medical purposes only, of course. We also know that the CIA was basically making it up as they went along, and so we can’t rule out that some sharp amateur would come up with the idea of
raping joshing with prisoners that way.
Juergen Todenhoefer doesn’t pretend to be an “objective reporter” — a former member of the German parliament, he became an unapologetic anti-war activist after seeing what the Soviets did in Afghanistan, and what the U.S. has accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to AlterNet’s Emran Feroz:
In Germany, Todenhoefer is roundly maligned by pro-Israel and US-friendly figures as a “vulgar pacifist” and an apologist for Islamic extremism. But those who have been on the other side of Western guns tend to recognize his journalism as an accurate portrayal of their harsh reality.
Feroz also notes that while Todenhoefer’s account is unverified, the practice of sexually humiliating prisoners through rape by dogs isn’t without precedent in other conflicts, from Pinochet’s Chile to the Egyptian intelligence apparatus under Hosni Mubarak. Feroz also spoke to “Mohammed,” an Afghan translator who had worked at Bagram; the translator didn’t say that he’d witnessed prisoners being raped by dogs, but he found the scenario “absolutely realistic.” Another Afghan source, writer Waheed Mozhdah, said that the use of dogs was also a common rumor:
“Bagram is worse than Guantanamo,” Mozdah told me, “and all the crimes, even the most cruel ones like the dog story, are well known here but most people prefer to not talk about it.”
So, is it true? The sad fact is that, given what we already know about the CIA’s practices at Bagram and other “black sites,” we don’t have any reason to say, “No way, that’s a line that they’d never cross.” We’re really hoping that this is just a rumor. And we also won’t be the least bit surprised if someday we hear some of the usual suspects reassuring Fox News viewers that a little bit of rape by dogs was OK if it saved American lives, and besides, some people are into porn of that so why all the outrage?