Dirty Wars

Petraeus Linked to Iraq Torture Centers

Haraz N. Ghanbari/U.S. Navy via Getty

Former U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), delivers remarks before he administers the oath of re-affirmation and re-enlistment to 235 U.S. service members during a ceremony called "Operation Enduring Commitment - The Red, White and True," held at Kandahar Airfield on July 4, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Keeping his marriage together might be the least of David Petraeus’s problems now. A documentary report by the Guardian and BBC Arabic links the former CIA director to two veteran advisers of El Salvadorean paramilitary squads who ran Iraqi interrogation centers, where Shiite torture of Sunni prisoners fueled the country’s sectarian violence. Petraeus was tasked in 2004 with organizing Iraq’s security forces and Col. James Coffman became his direct report. Along with Col. James Steele, Coffman hired Shiites to work as police commandos in intelligence centers where, according to a former Iraqi general, committees used torture to make detainees confess. This includes “using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts,” according to the general. When word of this got out to the public, Iraq’s already-tumultuous civil war worsened. The kicker? Steele nows works as a motivational speaker.