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The Truth about Abu Ghraib

There is a massive deception being perpetrated by the US government about the torture at Abu Ghraib prison. Seven soldiers are taking the full brunt of a policy that had private contractors in charge of interogations, and the CIA and military intelligence present and encouraging the soldiers in their abuse.
Comments from Abuzaid in Iraq, Bush, and the Pentagon, all express disgust over the abuse (I'd call it torture) of prisoners being held at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. We are told it is "under investigation." Actually, it has been "under investigation" since January. The US public is being led to believe that this is an isolated incident by some rogue US soldiers. The story emerging paints a very different picture. Virtually missing from all US reports is that the CIA, military intelligence, and private contractors were hired at the prison to direct "interrogation," and that US soldiers most likely were following their orders in torturing the prisoners.
4/30/04 Borger, Guardian/UK, US military in torture scandal "According to lawyers for some of the soldiers, they claimed to be acting in part under the instruction of mercenary interrogators hired by the Pentagon." .... Lawyers for the soldiers argue they are being made scapegoats for a rogue military prison system in which mercenaries give orders without legal accountability. A military report into the Abu Ghraib case - parts of which were made available to the Guardian - makes it clear that private contractors were supervising interrogations in the prison, which was notorious for torture and executions under Saddam Hussein."
5/10/04 Hersh, New Yorker, TORTURE AT ABU GHRAIB In letters and e-mails to family members, Frederick repeatedly noted that the military-intelligence teams, which included C.I.A. officers and linguists and interrogation specialists from private defense contractors, were the dominant force inside Abu Ghraib. In a letter written in January, he said: I questioned some of the things that I saw . . . such things as leaving inmates in their cell with no clothes or in female underpants, handcuffing them to the door of their cell—and the answer I got was, "This is how military intelligence (MI) wants it done." . . . . MI has also instructed us to place a prisoner in an isolation cell with little or no clothes, no toilet or running water, no ventilation or window, for as much as three days. The military-intelligence officers have "encouraged and told us, 'Great job,' they were now getting positive results and information," Frederick wrote. "CID has been present when the military working dogs were used to intimidate prisoners at MI's request." At one point, Frederick told his family, he pulled aside his superior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Phillabaum, the commander of the 320th M.P. Battalion, and asked about the mistreatment of prisoners. "His reply was 'Don't worry about it.'"
If these reports are accurate (and personally I believe they are), then the use of abuse and torture were deliberate and sanctioned from the top. It also means that it is likely that this kind of abuse is not an "isolated incident," but a common practice being used on prisoners (in Iraq and perhaps elsewhere). It is most likely also not "accidental" that the abuse was so copiously documented. I suspect that the photos were used as an additional form of degradation.
Such dehumanization is unacceptable in any culture, but it is especially so in the Arab world. Homosexual acts are against Islamic law and it is humiliating for men to be naked in front of other men, Bernard Haykel, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at New York University, explained. "Being put on top of each other and forced to masturbate, being naked in front of each other—it's all a form of torture," Haykel said. (Hersh)
Who were these dangerous prisoners who were being degraded and tortured at Abu Ghraib? Hersh states in the New Yorker article:
Most of the prisoners, however—by the fall there were several thousand, including women and teen-agers—were civilians, many of whom had been picked up in random military sweeps and at highway checkpoints. They fell into three loosely defined categories: common criminals; security detainees suspected of "crimes against the coalition"; and a small number of suspected "high-value" leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.
It seems likely that some of the prisoners died from the abuse that they received:
Two Iraqi faces that do appear in the photographs are those of dead men. There is the battered face of prisoner No. 153399, and the bloodied body of another prisoner, wrapped in cellophane and packed in ice. There is a photograph of an empty room, splattered with blood. (Hersh)
And these prisoners were definitely tortured - not "just" humiliated. A 53 page report of the investigation of abuse by Major General Antonio M. Taguba obtained by the New Yorker (and not a public document) listed some of the following conclusions:
Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.
Also taken from this the Taguba report is the following quote from an interview with one of the US soldiers involved:
SFC Snider grabbed my prisoner and threw him into a pile. . . . I do not think it was right to put them in a pile. I saw SSG Frederic, SGT Davis and CPL Graner walking around the pile hitting the prisoners. I remember SSG Frederick hitting one prisoner in the side of its [sic] ribcage. The prisoner was no danger to SSG Frederick. . . . I left after that. When he returned later, Wisdom testified: I saw two naked detainees, one masturbating to another kneeling with its mouth open. I thought I should just get out of there. I didn't think it was right . . . I saw SSG Frederick walking towards me, and he said, "Look what these animals do when you leave them alone for two seconds." I heard PFC England shout out, "He's getting hard."
The level of depersonalization of the prisoners, even months after the abuse is frightening to me - note the reference above to the prisoner as "it." The Hersh article lists the names and ranks of the US soldiers under investigation. Interestingly, none of the CIA, military intelligence, or private contractors are named. Nor do we know how many of them were present at the prison. We do know the companies that were contracted at the prison thanks to a report in the Guardian/UK - US military in torture scandal, Borger, 4/30/04.
The investigation names two US contractors, CACI International Inc and the Titan Corporation, for their involvement in Abu Ghraib. Titan, based in San Diego, describes itself as a "a leading provider of comprehensive information and communications products, solutions and services for national security". It recently won a big contract for providing translation services to the US army. CACI, which has headquarters in Virginia, claims on its website to "help America's intelligence community collect, analyse and share global information in the war on terrorism". According to the military report on Abu Ghraib, both played an important role at the prison. At one point, the investigators say: "A CACI instructor was terminated because he al lowed and/or instructed MPs who were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by setting conditions which were neither authorised [nor] in accordance with applicable regulations/policy."
There may be a strategy in utilizing private contractors for such "jobs" as they are not under milittary jurisdiction (Borger: "One civilian contractor was accused of raping a young male prisoner but has not been charged because military law has no jurisdiction over him"). It would seem to me that civilian contractors who violate the law would come under Iraqi law. By turning offending contractors over to their employers for "discipline" a free rein is essentially given to any activity. In other words, under the US occupation of Iraq, contractors can be hired to abuse, torture, and kill Iraqi's and face NO legal consequences whatsoever. They can act with impunity. This story became public (in part) because of Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick who was stationed at the prison and kept a journal once the investigation began. (See a partial transcript at 'I asked for help and warned of this but nobody would listen', Guardian/UK, 5/01/04). In a BBC report - Link to video of a 5/01/04 report it is noted that Frederick, claims to have complained about the conditions, is a prison officer in civilian life. Frederick is one of six soldiers under investigation for abuse. He claims he raised the conditions to his superiors, but was under orders to abuse the prisoners. The distraction being put out by most reports was that there were only seven soldiers responsible for 800 prisoners. This may well be true, but it how many CIA, military intelligence, and private contractors were at the prison? Obviously, this kind of soldier-prisoner ratio would have resulted in appalling conditions even without the abuse and torture. Another distraction is that these soldiers were "untrained." Well Frederick certainly wasn't. But one must ask, "trained" to do what? Act as a prison staff? Engage in humiliation and torture? They certainly were trained to "follow orders" which apparently they did with zeal if the photos are to be believed. Obviously this "incident" and the release of the photos are not improving relations between the US and Iraqis, but are likely to enflame an already growing hostility against the US (Muslim 'torture' backlash, Langdon, This is London, 4/30/04; Outrage at US abuse of Iraqi prisoners, Al Jazeera, 5/01/04). No amount of "smoothing ruffled feathers," nor "sincere apologies" are going to cover the fact that the humiliation and torture was a standard practice, authorized at the highest levels. The events at Abu Ghraib should be responded to with outrage by the citizens of the US. This happened in OUR NAME and the consequences of those actions will be directed against the US. It seems clear that the violation of human rights, of civil rights, of international law and of the Geneva convention, is the accepted practice of the Bush "War on Terrorism." That is not just unacceptable - it is despicable and not to be tolerated, condoned. There are too many facts available at this point for the lie of being "disgusted" at this "unfortunate incident" to fly. This requires the broadspread condemnation of the people of the US for what it is - a policy of anything goes. The utilization of "private contractors" protected from any personal or legal consequences is also unacceptable. Those contractors were under the employ of corporations and had their orders directly from the US military and intelligence command. The US military and intelligence command had their orders directly from the Pentagon, and the Pentagon is DIRECTLY under the command of George W. Bush. This goes to the top. Certainly, the pattern of secrecy and covert actions fostered and practiced by the Bush administration is part and parcel of the policy of total disregard for either law or human decency. The refusal to allow human rights organizations access to prisoners enhances the continuance of such secrecy and abuse. What can we do? Pressure the US corporate media to TELL THE TRUTH and to INVESTIGATE and REPORT HONESTLY to the American public about these events and others. Without that, the majority of the American public will accept the lies and distractions, and rest comfortable thinking that this was an anomaly involving seven stressed out soldiers who "lost it" under unbearable pressure. This includes flooding the papers with letters to the editor. Contact your legislators and tell them exactly what you think, and what you believe should be done. I would suggest that impeachment proceedings be started immediately for Bush and Cheney, and the replacement of the entire chain of command from Rumsfeld, to Bremer, to those in Iraq. I would suggest criminal charges for all who devised and ordered this strategy, and turning them all over to the International Criminal Court. Get the information - print out the reports, the pictures, make copies. Given them to people. If you have a website, post them there. The government may be trying to keep all of this quiet, but you don't have to. Links for your Convenience - not exhaustive so add your own 4/30/04 Borger, Guardian/UK, US military in torture scandal 5/10/04 Hersh, New Yorker, TORTURE AT ABU GHRAIB 'I asked for help and warned of this but nobody would listen', Guardian/UK, 5/01/04 Link to video of a 5/01/04 report Muslim 'torture' backlash, Langdon, This is London, 4/30/04 Outrage at US abuse of Iraqi prisoners, Al Jazeera, 5/01/04 4/30/04 DemocracyNow, Abu Ghraib: New Warden, Same Prison 4/30/04 Mejendie, Reuters, Iraqi Prison Photos Mar U.S. Image 4/30/04 Borger, Guardian/UK, US military in torture scandal 5/01/04 WSWS, "Bush and the Democrats are responsible for torture in Iraq"

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