Wednesday, July 21, 2004

American Vigilantes on Trial in Afghanistan

A rather strange story from the NY Times:

Three Americans went on trial Wednesday on charges they tortured eight prisoners in a private jail, with the group's leader saying he had tacit support from senior Pentagon officials who once offered to put his team under contract.

The U.S. military says the men were freelancers operating outside the law and without their knowledge.

Jonathan Idema, Brett Bennett and Edward Caraballo were arrested when Afghan security forces raided their makeshift jail in Kabul on July 5.


Idema said a four-star Pentagon official named Heather Anderson "applauded our efforts" and wanted to place the group "under contract" -- an offer they refused for fear it would limit their freedom to operate.

There are no four-star female officers in the entire U.S. military. The name Heather Anderson is not listed in the Pentagon phone book.

"The American authorities absolutely condoned what we did, they absolutely supported what we did," Idema told reporters crowding around the dock. "We have extensive evidence of that."


There was no attorney for Idema, a bearded former American soldier once convicted of fraud, who appeared in court in a khaki uniform with a reversed American flag on the shoulder.

Idema wore sunglasses in the courtroom, completing a look that once fooled even NATO peacekeepers, who sent explosives experts to help him with three raids before realizing they had been duped into thinking he was with U.S. special forces.

My guess is this isn't going to be a big story since there doesn't seem to be any political capital to be made from it. But a word of advice to future trouble makers: making up the names of four-star generals isn't a smart way to establish your credibility.

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