Photos expose U.S. brutality in Iraq
May 7, 2004 | Page 1
THE HORRIFYING pictures of Iraqi prisoners tortured by U.S. soldiers--in the same prison that Saddam Hussein locked up his opponents--have shocked people around the world. They are further proof, if more was needed, that the U.S. government isn't "liberating" Iraqis from oppression--but imposing its own ironfisted rule.
The photos from Abu Ghraib prison are stomach-turning. In some, Iraqi men are stripped naked, hooded and made to pose--as leering U.S. soldiers smile for the camera. In another, an Iraqi prisoner stands on a box with wires attached to his hands. He was told that he would be electrocuted if he fell or stepped down.
The Bush administration tried to downplay the torture photos. George W. Bush proclaimed his "deep disgust" and promised that abusive soldiers would be punished. But it's Bush and his fellow war makers in Washington who should be punished.
They justified their war on Iraq by whipping up a racist frenzy--and their aim all along was to dominate Iraq under the boot of occupation. The photos from Abu Ghraib symbolize the goal of the U.S. government from day one of its latest war--to force Iraqis to bend to Washington's will.
There was fury at the torture revelations across the Middle East. "This is the straw that broke the camel's back for America," Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, told Reuters last week. "The liberators are worse than the dictators."
Don't buy the White House's latest round of lies--top U.S. officials knew all along about what was happening at the prison. According to Agence France Press, former Iraqi Human Rights Minister Abdel Basset Turki, once a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, told U.S. overseer Paul Bremer about the torture at Abu Ghraib months ago.
"In November, I talked to Mr. Bremer about human rights violations in general, and in jails in particular," said Turki. "He listened but there was no answer...He didn't take care about the information I gave him."
The U.S. isn't alone, either. As the scandal broke over the photos of U.S. torture, Britain's Daily Mirror published sickening images of British troops allegedly beating and urinating on an Iraqi prisoner. At least 17 U.S. service members have been charged or are under investigation for abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
According to the Army's own internal report--completed in February and made public last week by New Yorker magazine--between October and December of 2003, there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at the prison. The report, by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, details abuses that include: 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; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and other sickening crimes.
And there is plenty of evidence to suggest that higher-ups not only knew about the torture, but encouraged it. Taguba's report says that military police at the prison were urged by officers and CIA agents to "set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses." In other words, to "soften them up" for questioning.
In letters and e-mails to his family members, Army Reserves Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick--one of the soldiers facing a court-marshal for abuse--said that military-intelligence teams, which included CIA officers and specialists from private defense contractors, were the dominant force inside Abu Ghraib. "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,'" Frederick wrote home to his family in January.
In November, Frederick wrote that an Iraqi prisoner under the control of "other government agencies"--the CIA and its mercenary "civilian contractors"--was brought to his unit for questioning. "They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away," Frederick wrote. "The next day, the medics came and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his arm and took him away."
Now, the Bush administration says that they're sending a new prison overseer--Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller--to "clean up" Abu Ghraib. Miller's credentials? He's the former head of the U.S. gulag in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba--where hundreds of prisoners from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are housed like animals in cages and have been systematically denied their rights.
And this is the man the U.S. wants to ensure proper detention and interrogation procedures in Iraq? The Bush administration has the gall to wonder why it hasn't won the "hearts and minds" of ordinary Iraqis. The photos from Abu Ghraib show exactly why.
"I hated Saddam so much that when the Americans came, I viewed them as liberators," Dhia al-Shweiri, who was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib prison twice under Saddam Hussein, told the Associated Press last week. But al-Shweiri was back in Abu Ghraib in October--this time as a prisoner of the Americans. "[S]oon, it became clear that they are no liberators but occupiers."