George W. Bush and his minions are toiling to contain worldwide outrage over the torture of hundreds of Iraqi detainees by U.S. occupation soldiers at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Slip-sliding to shift blame to a few low ranking soldiers, Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld swear they learned of the repellent photos of U.S. military police torturing naked Iraqi prisoners only when they saw them on television.
But this is like one of those raging California wildfires, out of control and spreading. Rumsfeld himself told the Senate Armed Service Committee the “worst is yet to come” with even more photographs and videos of depraved and criminal abuse of Iraqi detainees.
In his 53-page classified report on the war crimes, U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba charged that U.S. soldiers and commanders at Abu Ghraib committed “egregious acts and grave breaches of international law … sadistic, blatant and criminal abuses.”
He reports, “The various detention facilities operated by the 800th Military Police Brigade have routinely held persons brought to them by Other Government Agencies (OGAs) without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention.”
The MPs called them “ghost detainees,” who were moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross survey team.
This maneuver was “deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law,” Taguba charged.
Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick, one of the MPs facing court martial, told Taguba one inmate died during interrogation. “They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away,” Frederick said. “They put his body in a body bag and packed him in ice for approximately 24 hours in the shower … the next day the medics came in and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his arm and took him away.”
Frederick said the prisoner had not been recorded in the prison system “and therefore never had a number.” But the ghoulish prison guards snapped photos of a smiling soldier kneeling beside the bruised and beaten corpse.
Was this one of the “ghost detainees” of the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency, private contractors and profit-seeking mercenaries like CACI and Titan? Taguba told the Senate Armed Services Committee, May 11, that the MPs deferred to these private contractors as the “competent authority” during interrogations.
Investigators are looking into the death of at least 25 Iraqi and Afghani prisoners who died in U.S. custody.
Former Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio), president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, charged at a May 7 National Press Club news conference that the racist abuse flows from the “demonizing and dehumanizing of Arabs and Muslims in general.” She cited scurrilous anti-Muslim statements by Gen. William Boykin, chief of U.S. Military Intelligence, and Attorney General John Ashcroft that fanned the flames of bigotry. “Nothing short of the dignity and honor of our country is at stake here,” she said.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a candidate for president, said, “It’s not enough that Rumsfeld be fired. It’s the war that’s wrong. … As long as Bush is in the White House, it doesn’t matter who is in the Pentagon. Nothing will change except that it will get worse.”
Kucinich urged people to sign his on-line petition to the Democratic Party (at www.kucinich.us) urging them to adopt a policy of “UN in and U.S. out of Iraq.”
The media is now reminding readers that prison inmates here at home are victims of racist abuse. The torture of Abner Louima by New York police officers comes to mind when one reads that an Iraqi inmate was “sodomized with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick” in an effort to “soften him up” for interrogation.
The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross revealed May 10 that they had visited Abu Ghraib prison last October and discovered that methods forbidden under the Geneva Conventions were being used. The U.S. officer in command of the prison told the Red Cross team the abuse is “part of the process.” The Red Cross report was delivered to the Bush administration in February documenting the humiliation and abuse of prisoners, also charging that several inmates were murdered.
“The nine men were made to kneel, face and hands against the ground as if in prayer position,” the report states. “The soldiers stamped on the back of the neck of those raising their head.” One corpse had a broken nose, broken ribs and facial wounds indicating a beating. “He was heard screaming for help before he died.”
At the coalition’s Camp Bucca jail, Red Cross monitors “observed burns on the buttocks of a 61-year-old detainee who told them he had been tied, hooded and forced to sit on a hot surface that he believed to be the engine of a vehicle, causing him to lose consciousness.”
In another case, the Red Cross charged, a prisoner “required several skin grafts and had a finger amputated after receiving burns to the face, abdomen, foot and hand when he was forced to lie on a hot surface.” Between 70 and 90 percent of the detainees were arrested “by mistake,” military intelligence officers told the Red Cross.
The Bush-Cheney administration brushed this report aside.
Critics charge these crimes flow from the Bush administration doctrine of preemptive, unilateral war policies and reflect the arrogance of a conquering imperialist power. The tactics of humiliation recall the strategy of “shock and awe” aimed at instilling fear and forcing the masses to surrender to U.S. occupation.
Gen. Taguba charges that the Pentagon sent Major General Geoffrey Miller, then in charge of interrogations at the U.S. detention center at the Guantanamo Navy Base in Cuba, to Iraq in August 2003 to shake up the prison system because so little “actionable intelligence” was being squeezed from the 8,000 inmates.
Taguba reports, “Gen. Miller’s assessment was that Coalition Joint Task Force 7 did not have … procedures in place to affect a unified strategy to detain, interrogate and report information from detainees/internees in Iraq.” Gen. Miller argued that, “Detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation.” The occupation army must “dedicate and train a detention guard force to facilitate successful interrogation.”
Taguba charged that Gen. Miller’s call for “consolidation and coordination” of Military Police and Military Intelligence was contrary to U.S. Army Regulations, that the duty of the MPs is to insure order and the safety of the detainees.
The New York Times, in an editorial calling for removal of Rumsfeld, points out that it was after Gen. Miller’s trip to Iraq that the worst abuse of Iraqi detainees began. Miller bragged to the media, “We used the models we had made at Guantanamo … to assist in the success of interrogations [in Iraq].” Guantanamo detainees have been denied the protections of the Geneva Convention by Bush, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft. Now the evidence proves the coercive methods used in Guantanamo were used on Iraqi detainees in flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention.
The photo of a naked Iraqi detainee on a leash held by a female soldier or one of a hooded man standing on a box with electric wires hooked to his fingers, toes, and penis, was taken after Gen. Miller’s visit.
Incredibly, Bush and Rumsfeld have sent Miller back to “clean up” the mess despite evidence that he was a ringleader in the atrocities.
Amnesty International sent an open letter to Bush May 7 charging that the U.S. has rejected their calls that detainees held in U.S. prisons around the world be brought before a “competent tribunal” to determine their status as required by Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention.
“When the USA unilaterally decides whether or not to affirm the rights of individuals protected by international treaties and agreements, this may send a message to troops and others that the government is set on a course in which international agreements can be ignored or set aside at the discretion of the executive for the sake of expediency,” the letter states.
As Rumsfeld sweated in the witness chair May 7, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) said, “I see arrogance and a disdain for Congress. Given the catastrophic impact that this scandal has had on the world community, how can the United States ever repair its credibility? How are we supposed to convince not only the Iraqi people but also the rest of the world that America is, indeed, a liberator and not a conqueror, not an arrogant power?”
Tim Wheeler is the national political correspondent
and former editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org here for Spanish text