Mounting evidence is making it clear that torture and a pattern of human rights abuse is standard operating procedure for the Bush administration and its surrogates in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, where over 600 people of about 38 different nationalities are still being held.

Though pictures of torture at Abu Ghraib brought wide exposure to such practices, the duration and vast scope of these violations of human rights are becoming more apparent with each passing day. The Pentagon now admits that since 2002 at least 26 inmates in Iraq and Afghanistan were almost certainly victims of criminal homicide at the hands of prison interrogators and guards.

The American Civil Liberties Union, quoting U.S. Defense Department documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, suggests that U.S. investigations into abuse committed by American soldiers have been “woefully inadequate” and that the Pentagon consistently whitewashed reports of torture and abuse.

It appears that both young and old are “equal opportunity victims” of such atrocities. Brig. Gen. Jane Karpinski, a former U.S. commander at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, admitted that the U.S. Army held children at Abu Ghraib, including one no older than 11. A 73-year-old Iraqi woman reported that she was sexually abused with a stick by U.S. forces. According to the ACLU, the investigation of the incident was closed on the basis of a “sanitized” report.

Attorneys for a German-born Turkish man held at Guantanamo said that U.S. guards forced the man’s head under water and used electric shocks and other methods of torture.

With such evidence of U.S. torture of detainees in far-flung locations, it is hard to think that this documented litany of abuse represents “rogue” acts of a few low-ranking “bad apples.” A chain of memos points to the top, including the White House. A real investigation should follow that chain and assign responsibility where it belongs — at the highest level.

Such evidence further exposes the lie of the U.S. as an authority on human rights while it occupies other countries and commits crimes against humanity.

End the occupation. It is time to bring the troops home.

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