New York Times
U.S. Disputed Protected Status of Iraq Inmates
By Douglas Jehl and Neil A. Lewis
WASHINGTON, May 22 — Presented last fall with a detailed catalog of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the American military responded on Dec. 24 with a confidential letter to a Red Cross official asserting that many Iraqi prisoners were not entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Conventions.
The letter, drafted by military lawyers and signed by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, emphasized the "military necessity" of isolating some inmates at the prison for interrogation because of their "significant intelligence value," and said prisoners held as security risks could legally be treated differently from prisoners of war or ordinary criminals.
But the military insisted that there were "clear procedures governing interrogation to ensure approaches do not amount to inhumane treatment."
In recent public statements, Bush administration officials have said that the Geneva Conventions were "fully applicable" in Iraq. That has put American-run prisons in Iraq in a different category from those in Afghanistan and in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been declared unlawful combatants not eligible for protection. However, the Dec. 24 letter appears to undermine administration assertions of the conventions' broad application in Iraq.
Until now, the only known element of the letter had been a provision described by a senior Army officer as having asserted that the Red Cross should not seek in the future to conduct no-notice inspections in the cellblock where the worst abuses took place.
The International Committee of the Red Cross had reported in November that its staff, in a series of visits to Abu Ghraib in October, had "documented and witnessed" ill treatment that "included deliberate physical violence" as well as verbal abuse, forced nudity and prolonged handcuffing in uncomfortable positions.
In Congressional testimony last week, Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, the deputy commander of American forces in the Middle East, asserted that the Dec. 24 response demonstrated that the military had fully addressed the Red Cross complaints.
But the three-page response did not address many of the specific concerns cited by the Red Cross, whose main recommendations included improving the treatment of prisoners held for interrogation.
Instead, much of the military's reply is devoted to presenting a legal justification for the treatment of a broad category of Iraqi prisoners, including hundreds identified by the United States as "security detainees" in a cellblock at Abu Ghraib and in another facility known as Camp Cropper on the outskirts of the Baghdad airport, where the Red Cross had also found abuses.
Prisoners of war are given comprehensive protections under the Third Geneva Convention, while civilian prisoners are granted considerable protection under the Fourth Convention.
But under the argument advanced by the military, Iraqi prisoners who are deemed security risks can be denied the right to communicate with others, and perhaps other rights and privileges, at least until the overall security situation in Iraq improves.
The military's rationale relied on a legal exemption within the Fourth Geneva Convention.
"While the armed conflict continues, and where `absolute military security so requires,' security detainees will not obtain full GC protection as recognized in GCIV/5, although such protection will be afforded as soon as the security situation in Iraq allows it," the letter says, using abbreviations to refer to Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
That brief provision opens what is, in effect, a narrow, three-paragraph loophole in the 1949 convention.
The Red Cross's standing commentary on the provision calls it "an important and regrettable concession to State expediency." It was drafted, during intense debate and in inconsistent French and English versions, to address the treatment of spies and saboteurs.
"What is most to be feared is that widespread application of the article may eventually lead to the existence of a category of civilian internees who do not receive the normal treatment laid down by the convention but are detained under conditions which are almost impossible to check," says the Red Cross commentary, which is posted on its Web site. "It must be emphasized most strongly, therefore, that Article 5 can only be applied in individual cases of an exceptional nature."
An authority on the laws of war, Prof. Scott L. Silliman of Duke University, said that the assertions in the military's letter were highly questionable and that the military lawyers who drafted it may have misconstrued the law.
The category in which prisoners may be excluded from the protections of the Geneva Conventions that the letter cites, Professor Silliman said, are for people who can be shown to be a continuing threat to the occupying force, not people who might have valuable intelligence.
"They may be high value assets but that does not necessarily make them security risks," he said. The provision cited in the letter provides that the protections could be suspended for people suspected of "activities hostile to the security" of a warring state or an occupying power.
In testimony last week on Capitol Hill, Col. Marc Warren, a top American military lawyer in Iraq, defended harsh techniques available to American interrogators there as not being in violation of the Geneva Conventions. He said the conventions should be read in light of "various legal treatises and interpretations of coercion as applied to security internees."
Exactly how the treatment of security prisoners would differ from others under the military's approach was not spelled out in detail, but clearly it would allow their segregation into a separate part of the prison for interrogation, where some of them could be held incommunicado.
The military's letter promised to try to improve prisoners' treatment in some respects cited by the Red Cross, promising, for example, to provide shelters against mortar and rocket attacks "in due course" but noting that the shelters are in short supply for American and allied soldiers. It also said "improvement can be made" to provide adequate clothing and water, and promised speedier judgments and discharges of innocent prisoners.
The letter is addressed to Eva Svoboda of the Red Cross committee, who is identified as the agency's "protection coordinator."
It asserts that the prisoners at Camp Cropper "have been assessed to be of significant ongoing intelligence value to current and future military operations in Iraq."
"Their detention condition is in the context of ongoing strategic interrogation," it said, and "under the circumstances, we consider their detention to be humane."
The Red Cross report said that at the time of the October visits to Abu Ghraib, "a total of 601 detainees were held as security detainees."
"Many were unaware of any charges against them or what legal process might be ahead of them," the undated report said.
Professor Silliman, a former Air Force lawyer who heads the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke, said the response of authorities at Abu Ghraib to the Red Cross appeared to be part of a larger pattern in which the administration and the military devote great energy to find ways to avoid the jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions.
"If you look at this in connection with other things that are coming out, it doesn't seem like a snap decision but part of an across-the-board pattern of decision-making to create another category outside the conventions."
He cited a memorandum written in January 2002 by Albert R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, recommending that President Bush decree that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to prisoners from the war in Afghanistan. In the memorandum, Mr. Gonzales said that getting out from under the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions would preserve the government's flexibility in fighting terrorism.
New York Times
May 22, 2004
Only a Few Spoke Up on Abuse as Many Soldiers Stayed Silent
By Kate Zernike
"I knew I had to do something. I didn't want to see any more prisoners being abused because I knew it was wrong."
— SPECIALIST JOSEPH M. DARBY, whose report triggered the investigation into prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib.
Specialist Joseph M. Darby had just arrived at Abu Ghraib in October when his friend Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr. showed him a picture on his digital camera of a naked prisoner chained to his cell with his arms hung above him.
"The Christian in me says it's wrong," Specialist Darby would later tell investigators Specialist Graner had said. Specialist Darby said Specialist Graner then said that as a corrections officer he enjoyed it.
Specialist Darby came forward two months later, he told investigators, after deciding that the photo and others he saw were "morally wrong."
He said in his sworn testimony: "I knew I had to do something. I didn't want to see any more prisoners being abused because I knew it was wrong."
Specialist Darby's report would initiate the investigation into mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other military facilities in Iraq and raise questions about whether the misconduct was authorized by military officials.
In alerting criminal investigators, Specialist Darby, a 24-year-old from from Maryland, stood out from other soldiers who learned of the abuse. According to documents obtained by The New York Times, many other people, including medics, dog handlers and military intelligence soldiers — and even the warden of the site where the abuses occurred — saw or heard of similar pictures of abuse, witnessed it or heard abuse discussed openly at Abu Ghraib months before the investigation started in January.
Mistreatment was not only widely known but also apparently tolerated, so much so that a picture of naked detainees forced into a human pyramid was used as a screen saver on a computer in the interrogations room. Other soldiers easily stumbled onto photographs of naked detainees left on computers in the Internet cafe at the prison. Some soldiers saw detainees being left naked for days, screamed at, threatened with dogs and beaten with furniture. A few tried to report abuse or stop it, but nothing came of their efforts.
"I saw prisoners being handcuffed to each other naked, having two inmates walking in the isolation section of the cells naked and handcuffed to each other," said Specialist Roman Krol, a reservist with the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion. "One of the M.P.'s took a Nerf football and threw it at the detainees, and another M.P. threw water at the detainees. I had never seen anything like that before."
Specialist Darby left a disc with the photographs and a letter describing its contents anonymously, then came forward a day later. When asked why he wanted to be anonymous, he said, "I was worried about retaliation from other people in my company if they found out."
The seven soldiers charged in the investigation are all from his unit, the 372nd Military Police Company based in Cresaptown, Md.
Much of the evidence of abuse at the prison came from medical documents. Records and statements show doctors and medics reporting to the area of the prison where the abuse occurred several times to stitch wounds, tend to collapsed prisoners or see patients with bruised or reddened genitals.
Two doctors recognized that a detainee's shoulder was hurt because he had his arms handcuffed over his head for what they said was "a long period." They gave him an injection of painkiller, and sent him to an outside hospital for what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder, but did not report any suspicions of abuse. One medic, Staff Sgt. Reuben Layton, told investigators that he had found the detainee handcuffed in the same position on three occasions, despite instructing Specialist Graner to free the man.
"I feel I did the right thing when I told Graner to get the detainee uncuffed from the bed," Sergeant Layton told investigators.
Sergeant Layton also said he saw Specialist Graner hitting a metal baton against the leg wounds of a detainee who had been shot. He did not report that incident.
Sgt. Neil Wallin, another medic, recorded on Nov. 14: "Patient has blood down front of clothes and sandbag over head," noting three wounds requiring 13 stitches, above his eye, on his nose and on his chin.
Sergeant Wallin later told investigators that when he got to the prison: "I observed blood on the wall near a metal weld, which I believed to be the place where the detainee received his injury. I do not know how he was injured or if it was done by himself or another."
He also told investigators that he had seen male detainees forced to wear women's underwear and that he had seen a video in which a prisoner known to smear himself with his own feces repeatedly banged his head against the wall, "very hard."
Helga Margot Aldape-Moreno, a nurse, told investigators that in September she reported to the cell to tend to a prisoner having a panic attack, and that, opening the door, she saw naked Iraqis in a human pyramid, with sandbags over their heads. Military police officers were yelling at the detainees, she said.
Ms. Aldape-Moreno tended to the prisoner, she said, then left the room and did not report what she saw until the investigation began in January.
In the first week of November, Specialist Matthew Wisdom told investigators later, he saw detainees being thrown into a pile, and Specialist Graner and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II punching several of them. Specialist Wisdom said he reported what he saw to his team leader. The team leader said he would talk to Sergeant Frederick — who has since been charged with abuse and described as a ringleader of the mistreatment. Specialist Wisdom said he asked not to work in that site anymore.
The names of Specialist Graner, who was also charged in the abuse, and Sergeant Frederick are woven through the statements from witnesses and detainees. Witnesses told investigators it was widely known that Specialist Graner had explicit photographs and videos on his computer.
Sergeant Layton told investigators that Specialist Graner borrowed his computer to download photographs. When Sergeant Layton discovered that the photographs were sexually explicit, he told investigators, he told Specialist Graner he could not use the computer.
Cpl. Matthew Bolinger told investigators of Specialist Graner's pulling a disc from beneath his mattress, revealing on it a video of his having sex with an unidentified woman.
Specialist Hannah Schlegel reported that another soldier went to her in November, upset, because he had seen two prisoners naked and tied together and forced to crawl like dogs on leashes. Specialist Schlegel reported the concerns to a sergeant, who said he would report the accusations to the officer in charge. The report apparently went nowhere, perhaps, an investigator said later, because the officer in charge was Sergeant Frederick.
Adel Nakhla, a translator for the Titan Corporation, saw detainees being held naked for days and, later, naked detainees forced to crawl and lie on top of one another.
"Why did you not report what you felt was abuse toward the prisoners?" an investigator asked Mr. Nakhla in January, after Specialist Darby had handed over the discs with photographs.
"I have seen soldiers get in trouble for reporting abuse," Mr. Nakhla replied, "and I was scared. I didn't want to lose my job."
Even Specialist Sabrina Harman, one of the women now accused, recognized the abuse as something that should be reported to higher-ups, but did not do so. When she went home on leave to Virginia in November, Specialist Harman took home a disc with photographs of prisoners in sexual positions and gave it to her roommate, saying she wanted to present it to higher-ups when she returned permanently.
The roommate told investigators that Specialist Harman "could not report anything while there because her superiors were aware of the actions taking place against the prisoners."
In statements to investigators, many witnesses expressed regret that they had not come forward. "I even apologized to the detainees after this was done," Mr. Nakhla said. "I told them I thought what had happened was very degrading."
The Denver Post
Friday, May 21, 2004
Skipped autopsies in Iraq revealed
By Miles Moffeit, Denver Post Staff Writer
Autopsies were not performed on at least five Iraqi prisoners who died of mysterious causes at Abu Ghraib prison and other detention camps, according to Pentagon records.
And the lack of forensic investigations may conflict with international standards, including the Geneva Conventions, for the handling of war-detainee deaths.
Among the cases is a prisoner who died, the records show, after "gasping for air." Another detainee who had "prior head injuries" fell out of a hospital bed and struck his head on the floor. One prisoner began having "chest pains and collapsed."
Synopses of the death investigations, which do not disclose whether the prisoners were interrogated, are enclosed in documents obtained by The Denver Post from a high-level Pentagon source this week.
The deaths, all characterized as having "undetermined" causes, raise more serious questions about the treatment of detainees in the custody of U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib and other combat-zone facilities, say U.S. lawmakers and human-rights organizations.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the cases.
The Post reported Wednesday that harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. soldiers are being investigated in the deaths of five other prisoners.
Autopsies were done on those deaths; three of the prisoners died after being suffocated, the autopsies show.
May 7, 2004
There Donald Rumsfeld was, fielding unfriendly fire on Tuesday over the military's torture of Iraqi prisoners. This time, his usual pose of barely concealed contempt seemed more like scarcely repressed rage. Every muscle in his body was tensed, and his shoulders looked like wire hangers were holding them up. It was Rummy's Strangelove-ian attempt to keep from shrugging.
Hey, the voice within him longed to say, those fuckers are lucky to have their fingernails. But Rummy is a master of extenuation. When Baghdad was looted while the U.S. army stood by, he uttered his most famous euphemism: "Stuff happens." Now he was saying something even more elliptical: Torture? Don't call it that.
The military report that describes forced masturbation and anal rape, threats of electrocution, and terror inflicted even unto death? Rummy hasn't finished reading it yet. The failure to inform Congress? He cited a memo issued last January that was as oblique as the fog of war itself. The probe of similar conduct at some 20 U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan? The guilty will be punished, Rummy vowed -- but surely not the intelligence officers who devised this "softening-up" process or the two private companies contracted to perform interrogations (because they are exempt from military law). Or the secretary of defense.
Two immigrants held in New York after 9/11 have filed a suit charging guards -- supervised by intelligence officers -- with subjecting them to casual violence and repeated body-cavity searches. (As in Iraq, large objects were allegedly inserted in the rectum.) But don't call it torture; why, that would be against U.S. law. The events at Abu Ghraib prison are an aberration, Rummy insisted, even though there are dark accusations of prisoner abuse by our British allies. For that matter, many of the 3,000 men detained since 9-11 were shipped to countries whose governments are known to practice interrogation methods anyone but Rummy would consider a bit much.
What if the military had stuck to the "rule book" of prolonged sleep deprivation, protracted isolation in a small space, and a severely limited diet that John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban, says he was subjected to? What if we contented ourselves with variations on the old rubber hose? These techniques are so acceptable that you can see them in many cop movies, even though they're against the law. The truth is that most Americans are willing to tolerate such acts, and far worse, in the name of safety -- especially today. We just don't want to have the evidence shoved in our faces. And we sure don't want to see pictures of our heroic troops acting like pervs.
Or do we?
One reason why these photos are such a sensation is that they are stimulating. Especially the image of that woman grinning over a pyramid of naked men. She's the Phallic Female, watching guys parade around naked and jerk off before her. This really gets the kitten-with-a-whip crowd drooling. And when it comes to sadistic pleasure, there's nothing like forcing a man to give a simulated blowjob or take a peg-leg-sized anal probe. Shit, you won't even see that on Oz.
But that's the great perk of war. You can unleash the darkest reaches of your libido. Murdering, mutilating, and raping are all part of the adrenaline rush -- and nothing feels better than that forbidden thrill in the name of God and country.
The most distressing thing in those photos from Abu Ghraib was also the least remarked upon. That soldier standing over his prostrate prisoners, holding his thumb up, was wearing surgical gloves. Was he afraid of being contaminated by his victims' blood, feces, semen -- or just their humanity? We'll never know. But it's an astonishing symbol of what America is becoming: a nation where suffering is tolerable -- even pleasurable -- as long as the shit doesn't get on our hands.
New York Times|
May 22, 2004
Dogs and Other Harsh Tactics Linked to Military Intelligence
By DOUGLAS JEHL and ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON, May 21 — The use of dogs to intimidate prisoners during interrogation at Abu Ghraib in Iraq was approved by military intelligence officers at the prison, and was one of several aggressive tactics they adopted even without approval from senior military commanders, according to interviews gathered by Army investigators.
Intelligence officers also demanded strict limits on Red Cross access to prisoners as early as last October, delaying for a day what the military had previously described as an unannounced visit to the cellblock where the worst abuses occurred, according to a document from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The role of intelligence officers in the abuse scandal is still under investigation, and the newly disclosed documents provide further details of their involvement in abuses that so far have resulted in formal charges against the prison guards, but not the interrogators.
Other Army documents first obtained by The Denver Post provided new evidence that harsh treatment extended beyond Abu Ghraib to more American-run detention centers in Iraq, revealing details about three previously unreported incidents in which Iraqi prisoners died after questioning by American interrogators.
At the Pentagon on Friday, the Army revised an earlier estimate to say that it is now actively investigating the deaths of nine prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002, and that eight had already been determined by medical examiners to be possible homicides, involving acts committed before or during an interrogation.
In previous statements, it was not clear that so many prisoners died in interrogation, rather than being shot during riots or escape attempts. At Abu Ghraib, military intelligence units were responsible for interrogations, and military police units for guarding the prisoners and preparing them for interrogation.
The documents assembled by Army investigators starting in January and obtained by The New York Times cite accounts by American dog handlers who say the use of military working dogs in interrogations at Abu Ghraib was approved by Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade. Previously, Pentagon and Army officials have said that only the top American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, could have approved the use of the animals for interrogations. A "memorandum for the record" issued on Oct. 9 by the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at the prison listed as permissible a number of interrogation procedures that Army officials have said were allowed only with approval from General Sanchez. Among other things, the memorandum said the use of dogs in interrogations and the confining of prisoners to isolation cells was permitted in some cases without a prior approval from General Sanchez.
In a November report to military commanders in Iraq that was included in the documents, the Red Cross complained that its inspectors had faced restrictions "at the behest of Military Intelligence," including a one-day delay in interviewing prisoners, who were to be seen for only a short time, and asked only about their names and their health.
In the four-page report, which has not previously been made public, the Red Cross said it had nonetheless found naked prisoners covering themselves with packages from ready-to-eat military rations, and subjected to "deliberate physical violence and verbal abuse." Prisoners were found to be incoherent, anxious and even suicidal, with abnormal symptoms "provoked by the interrogation period and methods."
The document said the prison authorities "could not explain" the lack of clothing for prisoners and "could not provide clarification" about other mistreatment of prisoners.
On Capitol Hill, some Senate Republicans and Democrats expressed concern that the Pentagon withheld important supporting documents when it sent Congress copies of the 6,000-page investigative report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba.
But a spokesman for Senator John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, said the Army was working to fill any gaps in materials. "There does not appear to be a problem in producing materials that are germane to the facts of the inquiry," said the spokesman, John Ullyot.
The documents show that military intelligence officers at the prison and civilian contractors under their control adopted harsher tactics than previously known, and enlisted the military police in some of their interrogation methods. In many details, the documents elaborate on what has already been known since the photos of the abuses first became public last month.
To date, only seven enlisted soldiers from a military police company have been charged with crimes in connection with the abuses at Abu Ghraib, all in a single cellblock, known as Tier 1. But most have argued that they were acting with the knowledge or encouragement of the military intelligence officers who oversaw the interrogations and exerted authority over the cellblock.
A new time line provided by an Army spokesman also showed that the involvement of military intelligence personnel in abuses at Abu Ghraib began in October 2003. The first reported episode involved soldiers assigned to the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center, months before the major criminal investigation initiated in January into misconduct at the prison, which focused on the involvement by the military police.
Three enlisted soldiers from the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion were fined and demoted in the incident, whose broad outlines have been reported previously. The spokesman, Lt. Col. Billy Buckner, declined to identify the soldiers involved or the details of the incident, citing privacy concerns.
The documents obtained by The Times included transcripts of sworn statements from military intelligence, the military police, civilian contractors and others who were interviewed by Army investigators last January as they began to look into allegations of abuse.
The statements include several accounts from officers, including Capt. Donald J. Reese of the 372nd Military Police Company, who acknowledged having seen Iraqi prisoners stripped naked while in American detention. Captain Reese, among others, said they had been told that nudity was part of "an interrogation procedure used by M.I." or military intelligence.
One intelligence officer, Specialist Luciana Spencer, said interrogations had been staged "in the showers, stairwell or property room" of the cellblock, as well as in two interrogation centers that were formally in control of the Joint Information and Debriefing Center. The officer in charge was Capt. Carolyn A. Wood of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, who other Army officers have said brought to Iraq the aggressive procedures the unit had developed during her previous service in Afghanistan, from July 2002 to January 2003. She served in Afghanistan as the operations officer in charge of the Bagram Collection Point.
Steven A. Stefanowicz, a civilian interrogator who worked under contract to the intelligence unit, described an interrogation tool that he called a "Sleep Meal Management Program," in which prisoners were allowed no more than four hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, in a regime that usually lasted 72 hours. Mr. Stefanowicz said in a statement that military police were "allowed to do what is necessary," within certain limits, to keep prisoners awake during that period.
At least two noncommissioned officers, Sgts. Michael J. Smith and Santos A. Cardona, said they had used unmuzzled military dogs to intimidate prisoners under interrogation. They said they were acting under instructions from Colonel Pappas, the commander of the intelligence brigade.
Both sergeants said Colonel Pappas had assured them that the use of dogs in interrogation was permitted and did not require written authorization or approval from senior officers. The memorandum for the record issued by the interrogation center on Oct. 9 also listed the "presence of working dogs" as "approved" on the basis of authorization from the interrogation officer in charge.
Colonel Pappas has declined requests for interviews, but other Army officials have said the use of dogs in interrogations could have been approved only by General Sanchez, as outlined in a policy he issued on Oct. 10. An unclassified Dec. 12 situation update sent by Colonel Pappas's unit describes interrogation techniques permitted for use in Iraq, including "sleep management, sensory deprivation, isolation longer than 30 days, dogs," as among the "harsh approaches" that could be introduced only with prior approval from General Sanchez.
Some new details involving deaths of Iraqi prisoners that are being investigated as possible homicides were first reported in Wednesday's editions of The Denver Post, and several of them involved Special Operations Forces. The details of the incidents were confirmed Friday by Pentagon officials, who said the deaths were among the nine now being investigated by the Army.
Among the previously unknown incidents was the death in January 2004 of an Iraqi prisoner at a forward operating base in Asad, Iraq, where a detainee had resisted questioning by Special Forces soldiers from Operational Detachment Delta. The prisoner died after he was gagged and his hands were tied to the top of his cell door, in an incident being reviewed for "consideration of misconduct," the Army documents said.
In a second incident in June 2003, at a "classified interrogation facility" in Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner was found dead after being restrained in a chair for questioning, and after being subjected to physical and psychological stress, the Army documents show. The Denver Post said an autopsy had determined that he died of a "hard, fast blow" to the head; and that while an investigation was continuing, no disciplinary action has been taken.
A third incident, whose broad outlines had been previously known, involved the death in custody of a high-ranking general, Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who died in November at a detention facility run by the Third Armored Cavalry, a unit based in Fort Carson, Colo. A Nov. 27 announcement by the American military command in Baghdad described General Mowhoush as having died "of natural causes."
In fact, according to the Army documents cited by The Denver Post, General Mowhoush died after being shoved head-first into a sleeping bag, and questioned while being rolled repeatedly from his back to his stomach. Then, according to the documents, an interrogator sat on the general's chest and placed his hands over his mouth.
The documents say the "preliminary report lists the cause of death as asphyxia due to smothering and chest compressions." American intelligence officials have said General Mowhoush died several days after C.I.A. officers handed over custody of him to the military, but they say the agency's inspector general is examining possible wrongdoing involving C.I.A. personnel.
Altogether, a senior military official said at a Pentagon briefing on Friday afternoon, 37 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, all but five in Iraq.
Of these, 15 prisoner deaths have been determined by the Army to be cases of death by natural or undetermined causes, and 8 as justifiable homicides. Two have been determined to be homicides inside American detention centers.
Three others, including one homicide, took place outside American prisons, the senior military officer said. The officer described the remaining nine as being under active investigation. Of them, the Army official said, two were at Abu Ghraib, including the death of a prisoner there in an incident that the C.I.A. has said involved agency personnel.
The Pentagon also released copies of 23 death certificates of prisoners who died while in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced Friday that it was opening a criminal investigation into a civilian contractor in Iraq. The action represents the first time that the Justice Department has formally begun a criminal investigation in the prisoner abuse scandal, although it has been reviewing its jurisdiction in three death cases involving the C.I.A., including one in Afghanistan.
Justice Department officials said they had received a criminal referral from the Pentagon on Thursday, but would not identify the civilian contractor who is under investigation. An internal Army report in March identified two contractors at Abu Ghaib who were suspected of abuses, but it is not clear whether either one of them is the subject of the criminal investigation.
The Justice Department has asserted its jurisdiction over the conduct of civilians working for the military under an as yet untested federal statute, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows contractors and other nonmilitary personnel working for the armed forces to be charged with crimes in civilian courts.
New York Times|
May 9, 2004
The War's Lost Weekend
Just when you've persuaded yourself yet again that this isn't Vietnam, you are hit by another acid flashback. Last weekend that flashback was to 1969. It was in June 1969 that Life magazine ran its cover story "The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week's Toll," the acknowledged prototype for Ted Koppel's photographic roll-call of the American dead in Iraq on "Nightline." It was in November 1969 that a little-known reporter, Seymour Hersh, broke the story of the 1968 massacre at My Lai, the horrific scoop that has now found its match 35 years later in Mr. Hersh's New Yorker revelation of a 53-page Army report detailing "numerous instances of `sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses' at Abu Ghraib." No doubt some future edition of the Pentagon Papers will explain just why we restored Saddam Hussein's hellhole to its original use, torture rooms included, even as we allowed Baghdad's National Library, a repository of Mesopotamia's glorious pre-Baath history, to be looted and burned.
The Vietnam parallels are, as always, not quite exact. We didn't "withdraw" for another four years after 1969 and didn't flee Saigon for another two years after that. We're on a faster track this time. News travels at a higher velocity now than it did then and saturates the culture more completely; the stray, silent images from the TV set at the gym or the p.c. on someone else's desk lodge in our brains even when we are trying to tune them out. Last weekend, the first anniversary of the end of the war's "major combat operations," was a Perfect Storm of such inescapable images. The dense 48-hour cloud of bad news marked the beginning of the real, involuntary end of America's major combat operations in Iraq, come hell or June 30.
The first sign was the uproar over "Nightline" from the war's cheerleaders. You have to wonder: if this country is so firm in its support of this war, by what logic would photographs of its selfless soldiers, either their faces or their flag-draped coffins, undermine public opinion? The practical effect of all the clamor was only to increase hunger for "Nightline" — its ratings went up as much as 30 percent — and ensure that the fallen's faces would be seen on many more channels as well. Those faces then bled into the pictures from Abu Ghraib, which, after their original display on "60 Minutes II," metastasized by the hour on other networks and Web sites: graphic intimations of rape, with Americans cast as the rapists and Iraqis as the victims, that needed no commentary to be understood in any culture. (The word "reprimand" — the punishment we first doled out for these crimes — may lose something in translation to the Arabic, however.)
Then there were the pictures of marines retreating from Fallujah and of that city's citizens dancing in the streets to celebrate their victory over the American liberators they were supposed to be welcoming with flowers. And perhaps most bizarre of all, there was the image that negated the war's one unambiguous accomplishment, the toppling of Saddam. Now, less than 13 months after that victory, we could see a man in Republican Guard gear take command in Fallujah. He could have been one of those Saddam doubles we kept hearing about before "Shock and Awe." But instead of toppling this Saddam stand-in we were resurrecting him and returning him to power.
Through a cruel accident of timing, each of these images was in turn cross-cut with a retread of a golden oldie: President Bush standing under the "Mission Accomplished" banner of a year ago. "I wish the banner was not up there," Karl Rove had told a newspaper editorial board in the swing state of Ohio in mid-April. Not "I wish that we had planned for the dangers of post-Saddam Iraq before recklessly throwing underprepared and underprotected Americans into harm's way." No, Mr. Rove has his eye on what's most important: better political image management through better set design. In prewar America, presidential backdrops reading "Strengthening Medicare" and "Strengthening Our Economy" had worked just fine. If only that one on the U.S.S. Lincoln had said "Strengthening Iraq," everything would be hunky-dory now.
Not having any positive pictures of its own to counter last weekend's ugly ones, the administration tried gamely to alter the images' meaning through words instead. Little could be done to neutralize the mortal calculus of "Nightline" — though Paul Wolfowitz trivialized the whole idea of a casualty count by publicly underestimating the actual death toll by some 200. But back in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt went for broke. "This is not a withdrawal, it's not a retreat," he said, even as news video showed an American tank literally going in reverse while pulling away from Fallujah. To counter the image of the Saddam clone, the Pentagon initially told reporters that he was not a member of the Republican Guard, even as we saw him strutting about in the familiar olive-green uniform and beret. (Later the truth emerged, and the Saddam clone in question, Jasim Muhammad Saleh, was yanked off-camera.)
As for Abu Ghraib, a State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said "I'm not too concerned" about the fallout of these snapshots on American credibility in the Arab world. Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, took to three Sunday morning talk shows to say that only "a handful" of Americans had engaged in such heinous activities — even though that low estimate was contradicted by the two-month-old internal Army report uncovered by Mr. Hersh and available to everyone in the world, it seemed, except the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and his civilian counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld.
The general blamed the public's grim interpretation of the news from Iraq on "inaccurate reporting" that he found nearly everywhere, from CNN to "the morning papers." He and the administration no doubt prefer the hard-hitting journalism over at Fox. "I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News," Dick Cheney explained last month, "because they're more accurate in my experience, in those events that I'm personally involved in, than many of the other outlets."
It was instructive, then, to see how Fox covered the images of last weekend — in part by disparaging the idea of showing them at all. Fox's (if not America's) most self-infatuated newsman, the host of "The O'Reilly Factor," worried on air that "Nightline" might undermine morale if it tried to "exploit casualties in a time of war." He somehow forgot that just five nights earlier he had used his own show to exploit a casualty, the N.F.L. player Pat Tillman — a segment, Mr. O'Reilly confided with delight, "very highly rated by billoreilly.com premium members." (Lesson to families who lose sons and daughters in Iraq: if you want them to be exploited on "The Factor," let alone applauded by Web site "premium members" who pay its host $49.95 a year, be sure they become celebrities before they enlist.)
Soon Mr. O'Reilly was announcing that he was "not going to use the pictures" of Abu Ghraib either and suggested that "60 Minutes II" should have followed his example. Lest anyone be tempted to take a peek by switching channels, a former Army interrogation instructor, Tony Robinson, showed up on another Fox show, "Hannity & Colmes," to assert that the prison photos did not show torture. "Frat hazing is worse than this," the self-styled expert said.
Perhaps no one exemplified the principles of Cheney-favored journalism more eloquently than the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the large station owner (and Republican contributor) that refused to broadcast "Nightline" on its ABC outlets. A spokesman, Mark Hyman, explained: "Someone who died 13 months ago — why is that news?" Been there, done that, I guess.
The administration has been coddled by this kind of coverage since 9/11, until fairly recently, and it didn't all come from Fox and Sinclair. Last Sunday, Michael Getler, the ombudsman at The Washington Post, wrote that "almost everything we were told before the war, other than that Saddam Hussein is bad, has turned out, so far, not to be the case: the weapons of mass destruction, the imagery of nuclear mushroom clouds, the links between al Qaeda and Hussein, the welcome, the resistance, the costs, the numbers of troops needed." He was arguing that, as good as much of the war reportage has been, "it is prewar coverage that counts the most."
If that coverage had been sharper, and more skeptical of administration propaganda, more of the fictions that sent us to war would have been punctured before we signed on. Perhaps a majority of the country would not have been conned into accepting as fact (as it still does, according to an April poll) that Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda. As fate would have it, last weekend was also when C-Span broadcast live coverage of the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, many of whose attendees were responsible for the journalistic shortfall described by Mr. Getler. The revelers joined the president in pausing to mourn Michael Kelly and David Bloom, two of the 25 journalists killed so far in the line of duty in Iraq. Then it was back to Washington at its merriest, as the assembled journalists could return to drooling over such fading or faded stars as Ben Affleck, Morgan Fairchild and Wayne Newton.
That was an image, too — as ludicrous in its way as those second-rung Playboy bunnies turning up in "Apocalypse Now" — but not as powerful as those from the front lines. Mr. Koppel's salute to the fallen was heartbreaking, no matter what you think about the war; one young soldier could be seen cradling his infant child, others were still wearing the cap and gown of high school and college graduations. The Abu Ghraib images shocked us into remembering that real obscenity is distinct from the revelation of Janet Jackson's right breast, the cynical obsession of some of the Washington politicians also seen partying at the correspondents' dinner.
As we know from "Mission Accomplished" and Colin Powell's aerial reconnaissance shots displayed as evidence to the United Nations, pictures can be made to lie — easily. But over time credible pictures, because they have a true story to tell, can trump the phonies. Try as politicians might to alter their meaning with spin, eventually there comes a point when the old Marx Brothers gag comes into play: "Who are you going to believe — me or your own eyes?" Last weekend was a time when many, if not most, of us had little choice but to believe our own eyes.
Red Cross Was Told Iraq Abuse "Part of the Process"
May 10, 2004
By Peter Graff
LONDON (Reuters) - The Red Cross saw U.S. troops keeping
Iraqi prisoners naked for days in darkness at the Abu Ghraib
jail last October and was told by an intelligence officer in
charge it was "part of the process," a report leaked on Monday
The 24-page report added to the pressure on U.S. officials
by revealing that commanders were alerted to apparent abuses at
Abu Ghraib months before they opened a criminal investigation.
The Red Cross, which has special access to war zone prisons
under international treaties, said mistreatment of prisoners
"went beyond exceptional cases and might be considered as a
practice tolerated by the CF (Coalition Forces)."
Abuse was "in some cases tantamount to torture."
Although most of the Red Cross's observations concerned
U.S. forces, it also piled pressure on Washington's closest
ally, describing British troops forcing Iraqi detainees to
kneel and stomping on their necks in an incident in which one
The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva
confirmed that the confidential February 4 report, initially
leaked on the Web site of The Wall Street Journal, was genuine.
During a visit to Abu Ghraib in October, Red Cross
delegates witnessed "the practice of keeping persons deprived
of their liberty completely naked in totally empty concrete
cells and in total darkness," the report said.
"Upon witnessing such cases, the ICRC interrupted its
visits and requested an explanation from the authorities. The
military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation
explained that this practice was 'part of the process'."
Delegates met prisoners who were being held naked in
complete darkness. Others were forced to wear women's
The Red Cross's visit took place two months before pictures
were taken of U.S. troops abusing prisoners, which later led to
criminal charges against seven soldiers. Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld has said he was unaware of abuse until the
investigation into the pictures was launched in January.
Those pictures appeared in the media last month, causing
international outrage and prompting apologies by President Bush
and other senior officials. However, Washington has said it
believed the practices were isolated incidents of aberrant
behavior by individuals and not usual practice.
Although much of the abuse described in the report appears
to have taken place in jails run by U.S. forces, the report
also describes the death of an Iraqi prisoner in custody in the
British zone of Basra last September.
The victim's name is blacked out, but Britain's defense
ministry said it referred to detainee Baha Musa, whose death
Britain says it has been investigating since last year.
The Red Cross report described him as one of nine men
arrested in a Basra hotel and "made to kneel, face and hands
against the ground, as if in a prayer position. The soldiers
stamped on the back of the neck of those raising their head."
His death certificate said he died of a heart attack,
although witnesses saw a body with a broken nose and ribs.
The Red Cross said it had repeatedly brought allegations of
mistreatment to the attention of the authorities. In some
cases, they changed practices. For example, they stopped
issuing wristbands marked "terrorist" to all foreign detainees.
The report says prison guards often opened fire with live
ammunition on detainees who "were unarmed and did not appear to
pose any serious threat to anyone's life."
Among "serious violations of international humanitarian
law" the report listed a failure to set up a system to notify
family members of arrests, resulting "in the de facto
'disappearance' of the arrestee for weeks or months."
"The uncaring behavior of the CF (Coalition Forces) and
their inability to quickly provide accurate information on
persons deprived of their liberty for the families concerned
also seriously affects the image of the Occupying Powers among
the Iraqi population," it said.
One Soldier's Unlikely Act
Family Fears for Man Who Reported Iraqi Prisoner Abuse
By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2004; Page A16
WINDBER, Pa. -- When reports this week named Spec. Joseph M. Darby as the soldier who sounded the alarm on abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, his family was both proud and anxious.
"The news has been using the word 'whistleblower,' which to me sounds like a bad thing," said Maxine Carroll, Darby's sister-in-law and the family's spokeswoman. "I'm sure he wrestled with himself and decided to take the high road.
"We're hoping they put him somewhere safe."
According to a report in this week's New Yorker, Darby, a reservist in the 372nd Military Police Company, placed an anonymous note under the door of a superior, describing incidents of sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi detainees by some members of the unit that, documented by hundreds of explicit photographs, have shocked the world. He later came forward with a sworn statement.
As the families and friends of the Cumberland, Md.-based unit struggle to fathom the evidence, those who knew Darby before he enlisted wondered why he, more hothead than hero, came forward.
When news of his deed filtered through southwest Pennsylvania's mountain hollows to his high school home of Jenners, "I thought, 'That don't sound like Joe,' " said Doug Ashbrook, Darby's friend during their days at North Star High School in nearby Boswell. Then he remembered Darby in the high school bathroom, punching out paper towel dispensers.
"When he got mad at somebody, he wouldn't hit out at them -- he'd go bust something up," said Ashbrook, 24. "He had this temper, and that might have been the thing."
"Like the rest of us might, I thought maybe he'd just turn and forget about" the prisoner abuse, Ashbrook said. "Maybe I'd do the same. You just never know."
Darby's family moved a lot, but never far. In the mid-1990s, the family settled into a cream-colored clapboard duplex in Jenners, a tiny coal town in a region of rolling hills, exhausted strip mines and long-gone factory jobs. They had even less money than most; Darby lived with his stepfather, Dale, a disabled former truck driver, and mother, Margaret, who stayed home with his toddler brother, Montana. After school he worked the night shift at Wendy's to help out.
Gilbert Reffner, who lives across the street, remembers slipping a Christmas card with a few dollars inside under the door one year. He recalled the gesture when told about reports that Darby had slipped a missive of his own under the door of a superior in Baghdad. It was Darby's upbringing, Reffner said, that inspired the act.
"He didn't fit in with the whole crowd because he didn't have a lot of material things, fancy clothes or a car," said Reffner, 50. Darby's stepfather, who died several years ago, was a former Marine, neighbors say, who taught old-school manners to his son. He was "respectful, brought up the proper way," Reffner said.
Most evenings, Darby would cut through Reffner's back yard to visit Christina Vaillancourt, whose family lived on Short Street. The pair attended North Star High: Darby, a full-faced sophomore with shaggy, bowl-cut brown hair, beams out from the pages of the 1995 Polaris, the school's yearbook. He was a tackle for the North Star Cougars and was active in the Future Farmers of America chapter at Somerset County Vocational and Technical High School, which he attended part-time.
When they first met, "he was very sweet and kind of shy," Vaillancourt said. She recalled a benefit dance Darby organized to raise money for the family of a friend whose father died of a heart attack.
She got acquainted with Darby's temper one afternoon on the school bus, when a fellow student insulted him. "He just started pounding on the guy," she said.
By their senior year, the two grew apart, and Darby began dating other girls, she said. But he remained in touch, even after he married Bernadette Mains, a fellow student.
One evening, Darby called his former girlfriend to say he was headed to Iraq. "He was nervous about going to Iraq," recalled Vaillancourt, who has since married and lives in Maine. "He was homesick and afraid for his life.
"I'm proud of him for what he did."
Ashbrook and Darby often fished for catfish or hunted mushrooms in the woods around Jenners. Darby introduced his friend to Vaillancourt's sister, Monica, whom Ashbrook plans to marry next year.
"Joe was ornery like the rest of us," Ashbrook said, only more so. Occasionally, he recalled, something -- a slight, a school problem, another disappointment -- would anger Darby, who "broke so many of those towel dispensers I think he paid for one once a month," he said.
About the time Darby joined the service, his family moved out of Jenners. He has not contacted them since news of the abuse broke, Carroll said.
Darby's wife, Bernadette, has stopped talking to the media, except to relay a statement that she's proud of her husband. Carroll said the family hopes Darby's good deed will earn him a speedy return. They're also afraid, she said, of a backlash from families whose relatives, also in the 372nd, are accused of the abuse. "We're not passing judgment on the people who did this," she said.
Late Tuesday night, Jennifer Pettitt, Christina Vaillancourt's mother, swept the floor during her shift at Dunkin' Donuts in Somerset. She grew close to Darby while he dated her daughter and was the last person in Jenners to hear from him.
One evening last spring, he called her from Iraq, just wanting to talk. Could he have wanted to share what he'd been seeing or ask advice? Pettitt doesn't know -- it seemed odd to be talking to her daughter's former boyfriend, so she cut the conversation short.
"He sounded lonesome," she said. Now she worries that he's more lonesome than ever.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.
New York Daily News
Rumsfeld: "Sorry, but there's more..."
By Richard Sisk
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
Saturday, May 8th, 2004
WASHINGTON - The Iraqi torture scandal is going to get even worse, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld grimly warned Congress yesterday.
"Be on notice," Rumsfeld told the Senate and House Armed Services committees. "There are a lot more photographs and videos that exist."
He said the still secret pictures graphically depicted abuses by Americans that were "blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman."
"It's going to get still more terrible, I'm afraid," he said during a marathon session before Congress.
"If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse," Rumsfeld said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters, "The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience."
Congressional sources said some of the allegations of abuse involved acts against young boys, and Graham said "the worst is yet to come."
Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee also told of "42 other potential cases" of abuse against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan that occurred "outside detention facilities."
The famously combative Rumsfeld was contrite during much of his testimony and conceded the scandal could cost him his job.
When Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) asked him whether it might "help to undo some of the damage to our reputation if you were to step down?" Rumsfeld replied, "That's possible."
But he stressed that calls for his resignation from Democrats and petition drives on Democratic Web sites would not influence his decision.
"The issue is can I be effective," Rumsfeld said. "Needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute," he said, but he added, "I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it."
The day-long testimony of Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, and top Pentagon officials - broadcast live by Arab as well as U.S. TV - capped a tumultuous week that forced apologies from President Bush, emboldened Iraqi insurgents and put in doubt the entire U.S. peace effort in the Mideast.
Rumsfeld began with expressions of remorse for the treatment of prisoners and failing to keep Congress informed, but he grew more combative as it became evident senators and representatives were rallying to his support.
"These events occurred on my watch," Rumsfeld said. "As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility."
"To those Iraqis who were mistreated by the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology," Rumsfeld said.
To salvage the battered U.S. image, Rumsfeld said "I'm seeking a way to provide appropriate compensation to those detainees who suffered such grievous and brutal abuse," but he did not specify an amount.
Rumsfeld also said he has appointed a commission of retired officials led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and former Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-Fla.) to examine the scandal and make recommendations.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) questioned whether the Pentagon grasped the gravity of the crisis. "We risk losing public support for this conflict" in Iraq, McCain said, just as the American public turned against Vietnam.
Myers acknowledged that the scandal has effected troop morale. Soldiers in Iraq are "walking with their heads a little bit lower now," Myers said, and must win back trust "soldier by soldier, patrol by patrol."
A Wretched New Picture Of America
Photos From Iraq Prison Show We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2004; Page C01
Among the corrosive lies a nation at war tells itself is that the glory -- the lofty goals announced beforehand, the victories, the liberation of the oppressed -- belongs to the country as a whole; but the failure -- the accidents, the uncounted civilian dead, the crimes and atrocities -- is always exceptional. Noble goals flow naturally from a noble people; the occasional act of barbarity is always the work of individuals, unaccountable, confusing and indigestible to the national conscience.
This kind of thinking was widely in evidence among military and political leaders after the emergence of pictures documenting American abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. These photographs do not capture the soul of America, they argued. They are aberrant.
This belief, that the photographs are distortions, despite their authenticity, is indistinguishable from propaganda. Tyrants censor; democracies self-censor. Tyrants concoct propaganda in ministries of information; democracies produce it through habits of thought so ingrained that a basic lie of war -- only the good is our doing -- becomes self-propagating.
But now we have photos that have gone to the ends of the Earth, and painted brilliantly and indelibly, an image of America that could remain with us for years, perhaps decades. An Army investigative report reveals that we have stripped young men (whom we purported to liberate) of their clothing and their dignity; we have forced them to make pyramids of flesh, as if they were children; we have made them masturbate in front of their captors and cameras; forced them to simulate sexual acts; threatened prisoners with rape and sodomized at least one; beaten them; and turned dogs upon them.
There are now images of men in the Muslim world looking at these images. On the streets of Cairo, men pore over a newspaper. An icon appears on the front page: a hooded man, in a rug-like poncho, standing with his arms out like Christ, wires attached to the hands. He is faceless. This is now the image of the war. In this country, perhaps it will have some competition from the statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled. Everywhere else, everywhere America is hated (and that's a very large part of this globe), the hooded, wired, faceless man of Abu Ghraib is this war's new mascot.
The American leaders' response is a mixture of public disgust, and a good deal of resentment that they have, through these images, lost control of the ultimate image of the war. All the right people have pronounced themselves, sickened, outraged, speechless. But listen more closely. "And it's really a shame that just a handful can besmirch maybe the reputations of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines. . . . " said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday.
Reputation, image, perception. The problem, it seems, isn't so much the abuse of the prisoners, because we will get to the bottom of that and, of course, we're not really like that. The problem is our reputation. Our soldiers' reputations. Our national self-image. These photos, we insist, are not us.
But these photos are us. Yes, they are the acts of individuals (though the scandal widens, as scandals almost inevitably do, and the military's own internal report calls the abuse "systemic"). But armies are made of individuals. Nations are made up of individuals. Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done. We live in a democracy. Every errant smart bomb, every dead civilian, every sodomized prisoner, is ours.
And more. Perhaps this is just a little cancer that crept into the culture of the people running Abu Ghraib prison. But stand back. Look at the history. Open up to the hard facts of human nature, the lessons of the past, the warning signs of future abuses.
These photos show us what we may become, as occupation continues, anger and resentment grows and costs spiral. There's nothing surprising in this. These pictures are pictures of colonial behavior, the demeaning of occupied people, the insult to local tradition, the humiliation of the vanquished. They are unexceptional. In different forms, they could be pictures of the Dutch brutalizing the Indonesians; the French brutalizing the Algerians; the Belgians brutalizing the people of the Congo.
Look at these images closely and you realize that they can't just be the random accidents of war, or the strange, inexplicable perversity of a few bad seeds. First of all, they exist. Soldiers who allow themselves to be photographed humiliating prisoners clearly don't believe this behavior is unpalatable. Second, the soldiers didn't just reach into a grab bag of things they thought would humiliate young Iraqi men. They chose sexual humiliation, which may recall to outsiders the rape scandal at the Air Force Academy, Tailhook and past killings of gay sailors and soldiers.
Is it an accident that these images feel so very much like the kind of home made porn that is traded every day on the Internet? That they capture exactly the quality and feel of the casual sexual decadence that so much of the world deplores in us?
Is it an accident that the man in the hood, arms held out as if on a cross, looks so uncannily like something out of the Spanish Inquisition? That they have the feel of history in them, a long, buried, ugly history of religious aggression and discrimination?
Perhaps both are accidents, meaningless accidents of photographs that should never have seen the light of day. But they will not be perceived as such elsewhere in the world.
World editorial reaction is vehement. We are under the suspicion of the International Red Cross and Amnesty International. "US military power will be seen for what it is, a behemoth with the response speed of a muscle-bound ox and the limited understanding of a mouse," said Saudi Arabia's English language Arab News.
We reduce Iraqis to hapless victims of a cheap porn flick; they reduce our cherished, respected military to a hybrid beast, big, stupid, senseless.
Last year, Joel Turnipseed published "Baghdad Express," a memoir of the first Gulf War. In it, he remembers an encounter with Iraqi prisoners. A staff sergeant is explaining to the men the rules of the Geneva Convention.
" . . . What that means, in plain English, is 'Don't feed the animals' and 'Don't put your hand in the cage.' "
And then, the author explains, the soldiers proceed to break the rules. The ox thinks like a mouse.
"My vanquished were now vanquishing me," wrote Turnipseed, heartsick.
Not quite 50 years ago, Aime Cesaire, a poet and writer from Martinique, wrote in his "Discourse on Colonialism": "First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism."
Are we decivilized yet? Are we brutes yet? Of course not, say our leaders.
Soldiers Back in U.S. Tell of More Iraq Abuses
Filed at 7:41 a.m. ET
ANTIOCH, California (Reuters) - Three U.S. military
policemen who served at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison said on
Thursday they had witnessed unreported cases of prisoner abuse
and that the practice against Iraqis was commonplace.
``It is a common thing to abuse prisoners,'' said Sgt. Mike
Sindar, 25, of the Army National Guard's 870th Military Police
Company based in the San Francisco Bay area. ``I saw beatings
all the time.
``A lot of people had so much pent-up anger, so much
aggression,'' he said. Sindar and the other military policemen,
who have returned to California from Iraq, spoke in interviews
U.S. treatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib has stirred
wide international condemnation after the publication of photos
in recent days showing Americans sexually humiliating
prisoners. Six soldiers in Iraq have been charged in the case
and President Bush apologized publicly on Thursday.
Although public attention has focused on the dehumanizing
photos, some members of the 870th MP unit say the faces in
those images were not the only ones engaged in cruel behavior.
``It was not just these six people,'' said Sindar, the
group's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons specialist.
``Yes, the beatings happen, yes, all the time.''
An officer in their group was reprimanded last year after
holding down a prisoner for other men to beat, Sindar told
Reuters. Sindar and fellow military policeman Ramon Leal said
they saw hooded prisoners with racial taunts written on the
hoods such as ``camel jockey' or slogans such as ``I tried to
kill an American but now I'm in jail.''
Leal said one female soldier in his unit fired off a
slingshot into a crowd of prisoners. Sindar, who was familiar
with the incident, said one person was injured.
Another group of soldiers knocked a 14-year-old boy to the
ground as he arrived at the prison and then twisted his arm,
Sindar and Leal said.
``The soldiers were laughing at him,'' said Leal. ``I saw the
other soldiers that would take out their frustrations on the
Until earlier this year prisoners would arrive at Abu
Ghraib with broken bones, suggesting they had been roughed up,
he said. But the practice ended in January or February, as
practices at the prison were coming under increased internal
Photos obtained by Reuters show U.S. soldiers looking into
body bags of three Iraqi prisoners killed by 870th MP guards
during a prison riot in the fall of 2003. One photograph shows
a bearded man with much of his bloodied forehead removed by the
force of a bullet.
``We were constantly being attacked, we had terrible support
... also being extended all the time, a lot of us had problems
with our loved ones suffering from depression,'' said another of
the military policemen, Spc. Dave Bischel. ``It all contributes
to the psychological component of soldiers when they get
The Californians' remarks were unusual, as U.S. soldiers
have been reluctant to speak out in public on the issue.
Some say investigators went out of their way to keep the
allegations under wraps. When military investigators were
looking into abuses several months ago, they gave U.S. guards a
week's notice before inspecting their possessions, several
``That shows you how lax they are about discipline. 'We are
going to look for contraband in here, so hint, hint, get rid of
the stuff,' that's the way things work in the Guard,'' Leal
Torture at Abu Ghraib
By Seymour M Hersh
The New Yorker 5/10/2004
American soldiers brutalized Iraqis.
How far up does the responsibility go?
In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles
west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with
torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions. As many as fifty
thousand men and women—no accurate count is possible—were jammed into Abu
Ghraib at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more
than human holding pits.
In the looting that followed the regime’s collapse,
last April, the huge prison complex, by then deserted, was stripped of
everything that could be removed, including doors, windows, and bricks. The
coalition authorities had the floors tiled, cells cleaned and repaired, and
toilets, showers, and a new medical center added. Abu Ghraib was now a U.S.
military prison. 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.
Last June, Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve brigadier
general, was named commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and put in
charge of military prisons in Iraq. General Karpinski, the only female
commander in the war zone, was an experienced operations and intelligence
officer who had served with the Special Forces and in the 1991 Gulf War, but
she had never run a prison system. Now she was in charge of three large
jails, eight battalions, and thirty-four hundred Army reservists, most of
whom, like her, had no training in handling prisoners.
General Karpinski, who had wanted to be a soldier
since she was five, is a business consultant in civilian life, and was
enthusiastic about her new job. In an interview last December with the St.
Petersburg Times, she said that, for many of the Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib,
“living conditions now are better in prison than at home. At one point we
were concerned that they wouldn’t want to leave.”
A month later, General Karpinski was formally
admonished and quietly suspended, and a major investigation into the Army’s
prison system, authorized by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the
senior commander in Iraq, was under way. A fifty-three-page report, obtained
by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant
for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about
the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating.
Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there
were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses”
at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba
reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company,
and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was
attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade
headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:
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.
There was stunning evidence to support the
allegations, Taguba added—“detailed witness statements and the discovery of
extremely graphic photographic evidence.” Photographs and videos taken by
the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report,
Taguba said, because of their “extremely sensitive nature.”
The photographs—several of which were broadcast on
CBS’s “60 Minutes 2” last week—show leering G.I.s taunting naked Iraqi
prisoners who are forced to assume humiliating poses. Six suspects—Staff
Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick II, known as Chip, who was the senior enlisted
man; Specialist Charles A. Graner; Sergeant Javal Davis; Specialist Megan
Ambuhl; Specialist Sabrina Harman; and Private Jeremy Sivits—are now facing
prosecution in Iraq, on charges that include conspiracy, dereliction of
duty, cruelty toward prisoners, maltreatment, assault, and indecent acts. A
seventh suspect, Private Lynndie England, was reassigned to Fort Bragg,
North Carolina, after becoming pregnant.
The photographs tell it all. In one, Private England,
a cigarette dangling from her mouth, is giving a jaunty thumbs-up sign and
pointing at the genitals of a young Iraqi, who is naked except for a sandbag
over his head, as he masturbates. Three other hooded and naked Iraqi
prisoners are shown, hands reflexively crossed over their genitals. A fifth
prisoner has his hands at his sides. In another, England stands arm in arm
with Specialist Graner; both are grinning and giving the thumbs-up behind a
cluster of perhaps seven naked Iraqis, knees bent, piled clumsily on top of
each other in a pyramid. There is another photograph of a cluster of naked
prisoners, again piled in a pyramid. Near them stands Graner, smiling, his
arms crossed; a woman soldier stands in front of him, bending over, and she,
too, is smiling. Then, there is another cluster of hooded bodies, with a
female soldier standing in front, taking photographs. Yet another photograph
shows a kneeling, naked, unhooded male prisoner, head momentarily turned
away from the camera, posed to make it appear that he is performing oral sex
on another male prisoner, who is naked and hooded.
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,”
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.
The 372nd’s abuse of prisoners seemed almost routine—a
fact of Army life that the soldiers felt no need to hide. On April 9th, at
an Article 32 hearing (the military equivalent of a grand jury) in the case
against Sergeant Frederick, at Camp Victory, near Baghdad, one of the
witnesses, Specialist Matthew Wisdom, an M.P., told the courtroom what
happened when he and other soldiers delivered seven prisoners, hooded and
bound, to the so-called “hard site” at Abu Ghraib—seven tiers of cells where
the inmates who were considered the most dangerous were housed. The men had
been accused of starting a riot in another section of the prison. Wisdom
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
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.”
Wisdom testified that he told his superiors what had
happened, and assumed that “the issue was taken care of.” He said, “I just
didn’t want to be part of anything that looked criminal.”
The abuses became public because of the outrage of
Specialist Joseph M. Darby, an M.P. whose role emerged during the Article 32
hearing against Chip Frederick. A government witness, Special Agent Scott
Bobeck, who is a member of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, or
C.I.D., told the court, according to an abridged transcript made available
to me, “The investigation started after SPC Darby . . . got a CD from CPL
Graner. . . . He came across pictures of naked detainees.” Bobeck said that
Darby had “initially put an anonymous letter under our door, then he later
came forward and gave a sworn statement. He felt very bad about it and
thought it was very wrong.”
Questioned further, the Army investigator said that
Frederick and his colleagues had not been given any “training guidelines”
that he was aware of. The M.P.s in the 372nd had been assigned to routine
traffic and police duties upon their arrival in Iraq, in the spring of 2003.
In October of 2003, the 372nd was ordered to prison-guard duty at Abu Ghraib.
Frederick, at thirty-seven, was far older than his colleagues, and was a
natural leader; he had also worked for six years as a guard for the Virginia
Department of Corrections. Bobeck explained:
What I got is that SSG Frederick and CPL Graner were
road M.P.s and were put in charge because they were civilian prison guards
and had knowledge of how things were supposed to be run.
Bobeck also testified that witnesses had said that
Frederick, on one occasion, “had punched a detainee in the chest so hard
that the detainee almost went into cardiac arrest.”
At the Article 32 hearing, the Army informed Frederick
and his attorneys, Captain Robert Shuck, an Army lawyer, and Gary Myers, a
civilian, that two dozen witnesses they had sought, including General
Karpinski and all of Frederick’s co-defendants, would not appear. Some had
been excused after exercising their Fifth Amendment right; others were
deemed to be too far away from the courtroom. “The purpose of an Article 32
hearing is for us to engage witnesses and discover facts,” Gary Myers told
me. “We ended up with a c.i.d. agent and no alleged victims to examine.”
After the hearing, the presiding investigative officer ruled that there was
sufficient evidence to convene a court-martial against Frederick.
Myers, who was one of the military defense attorneys
in the My Lai prosecutions of the nineteen-seventies, told me that his
client’s defense will be that he was carrying out the orders of his
superiors and, in particular, the directions of military intelligence. He
said, “Do you really think a group of kids from rural Virginia decided to do
this on their own? Decided that the best way to embarrass Arabs and make
them talk was to have them walk around nude?”
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.’”
In November, Frederick wrote, an Iraqi prisoner under
the control of what the Abu Ghraib guards called “O.G.A.,” or other
government agencies—that is, the C.I.A. and its paramilitary employees—was
brought to his unit for questioning. “They stressed him out so bad that the
man passed away. They put his body in a body bag and packed him in ice for
approximately twenty-four hours in the shower. . . . The next day the medics
came and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his arm and took
him away.” The dead Iraqi was never entered into the prison’s inmate-control
system, Frederick recounted, “and therefore never had a number.”
Frederick’s defense is, of course, highly
self-serving. But the complaints in his letters and e-mails home were
reinforced by two internal Army reports—Taguba’s and one by the Army’s chief
law-enforcement officer, Provost Marshal Donald Ryder, a major general.
Last fall, General Sanchez ordered Ryder to review the
prison system in Iraq and recommend ways to improve it. Ryder’s report,
filed on November 5th, concluded that there were potential human-rights,
training, and manpower issues, system-wide, that needed immediate attention.
It also discussed serious concerns about the tension between the missions of
the military police assigned to guard the prisoners and the intelligence
teams who wanted to interrogate them. Army regulations limit intelligence
activity by the M.P.s to passive collection. But something had gone wrong at
There was evidence dating back to the Afghanistan war,
the Ryder report said, that M.P.s had worked with intelligence operatives to
“set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews”—a euphemism for
breaking the will of prisoners. “Such actions generally run counter to the
smooth operation of a detention facility, attempting to maintain its
population in a compliant and docile state.” General Karpinski’s brigade,
Ryder reported, “has not been directed to change its facility procedures to
set the conditions for MI interrogations, nor participate in those
interrogations.” Ryder called for the establishment of procedures to “define
the role of military police soldiers . . .clearly separating the actions of
the guards from those of the military intelligence personnel.” The officers
running the war in Iraq were put on notice.
Ryder undercut his warning, however, by concluding
that the situation had not yet reached a crisis point. Though some
procedures were flawed, he said, he found “no military police units
purposely applying inappropriate confinement practices.” His investigation
was at best a failure and at worst a coverup.
Taguba, in his report, was polite but direct in
refuting his fellow-general. “Unfortunately, many of the systemic problems
that surfaced during [Ryder’s] assessment are the very same issues that are
the subject of this investigation,” he wrote. “In fact, many of the abuses
suffered by detainees occurred during, or near to, the time of that
assessment.” The report continued, “Contrary to the findings of MG Ryder’s
report, I find that personnel assigned to the 372nd MP Company, 800th MP
Brigade were directed to change facility procedures to ‘set the conditions’
for MI interrogations.” Army intelligence officers, C.I.A. agents, and
private contractors “actively requested that MP guards set physical and
mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses.”
Taguba backed up his assertion by citing evidence from
sworn statements to Army C.I.D. investigators. Specialist Sabrina Harman,
one of the accused M.P.s, testified that it was her job to keep detainees
awake, including one hooded prisoner who was placed on a box with wires
attached to his fingers, toes, and penis. She stated, “MI wanted to get them
to talk. It is Graner and Frederick’s job to do things for MI and OGA to get
these people to talk.”
Another witness, Sergeant Javal Davis, who is also one
of the accused, told C.I.D. investigators, “I witnessed prisoners in the MI
hold section . . . being made to do various things that I would question
morally. . . . We were told that they had different rules.” Taguba wrote,
“Davis also stated that he had heard MI insinuate to the guards to abuse the
inmates. When asked what MI said he stated: ‘Loosen this guy up for
us.’‘Make sure he has a bad night.’‘Make sure he gets the treatment.’”
Military intelligence made these comments to Graner and Frederick, Davis
said. “The MI staffs to my understanding have been giving Graner compliments
. . . statements like, ‘Good job, they’re breaking down real fast. They
answer every question. They’re giving out good information.’”
When asked why he did not inform his chain of command
about the abuse, Sergeant Davis answered, “Because I assumed that if they
were doing things out of the ordinary or outside the guidelines, someone
would have said something. Also the wing”—where the abuse took
place—“belongs to MI and it appeared MI personnel approved of the abuse.”
Another witness, Specialist Jason Kennel, who was not
accused of wrongdoing, said, “I saw them nude, but MI would tell us to take
away their mattresses, sheets, and clothes.” (It was his view, he added,
that if M.I. wanted him to do this “they needed to give me paperwork.”)
Taguba also cited an interview with Adel L. Nakhla, a translator who was an
employee of Titan, a civilian contractor. He told of one night when a “bunch
of people from MI” watched as a group of handcuffed and shackled inmates
were subjected to abuse by Graner and Frederick.
General Taguba saved his harshest words for the
military-intelligence officers and private contractors. He recommended that
Colonel Thomas Pappas, the commander of one of the M.I. brigades, be
reprimanded and receive non-judicial punishment, and that Lieutenant Colonel
Steven Jordan, the former director of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing
Center, be relieved of duty and reprimanded. He further urged that a
civilian contractor, Steven Stephanowicz, of CACI International, be fired
from his Army job, reprimanded, and denied his security clearances for lying
to the investigating team and allowing or ordering military policemen “who
were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by
‘setting conditions’ which were neither authorized” nor in accordance with
Army regulations. “He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical
abuse,” Taguba wrote. He also recommended disciplinary action against a
second CACI employee, John Israel. (A spokeswoman for CACI said that the
company had “received no formal communication” from the Army about the
“I suspect,” Taguba concluded, that Pappas, Jordan,
Stephanowicz, and Israel “were either directly or indirectly responsible for
the abuse at Abu Ghraib,” and strongly recommended immediate disciplinary
The problems inside the Army prison system in Iraq
were not hidden from senior commanders. During Karpinski’s seven-month tour
of duty, Taguba noted, there were at least a dozen officially reported
incidents involving escapes, attempted escapes, and other serious security
issues that were investigated by officers of the 800th M.P. Brigade. Some of
the incidents had led to the killing or wounding of inmates and M.P.s, and
resulted in a series of “lessons learned” inquiries within the brigade.
Karpinski invariably approved the reports and signed orders calling for
changes in day-to-day procedures. But Taguba found that she did not follow
up, doing nothing to insure that the orders were carried out. Had she done
so, he added, “cases of abuse may have been prevented.”
General Taguba further found that Abu Ghraib was
filled beyond capacity, and that the M.P. guard force was significantly
undermanned and short of resources. “This imbalance has contributed to the
poor living conditions, escapes, and accountability lapses,” he wrote. There
were gross differences, Taguba said, between the actual number of prisoners
on hand and the number officially recorded. A lack of proper screening also
meant that many innocent Iraqis were wrongly being detained—indefinitely, it
seemed, in some cases. The Taguba study noted that more than sixty per cent
of the civilian inmates at Abu Ghraib were deemed not to be a threat to
society, which should have enabled them to be released. Karpinski’s defense,
Taguba said, was that her superior officers “routinely” rejected her
recommendations regarding the release of such prisoners.
Karpinski was rarely seen at the prisons she was
supposed to be running, Taguba wrote. He also found a wide range of
administrative problems, including some that he considered “without
precedent in my military career.” The soldiers, he added, were “poorly
prepared and untrained . . . prior to deployment, at the mobilization site,
upon arrival in theater, and throughout the mission.”
General Taguba spent more than four hours interviewing
Karpinski, whom he described as extremely emotional: “What I found
particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to
either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th
MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of
her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles
among its soldiers.”
Taguba recommended that Karpinski and seven brigade
military-police officers and enlisted men be relieved of command and
formally reprimanded. No criminal proceedings were suggested for Karpinski;
apparently, the loss of promotion and the indignity of a public rebuke were
seen as enough punishment.
After the story broke on CBS last week, the Pentagon
announced that Major General Geoffrey Miller, the new head of the Iraqi
prison system, had arrived in Baghdad and was on the job. He had been the
commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center. General Sanchez also
authorized an investigation into possible wrongdoing by military and
As the international furor grew, senior military
officers, and President Bush, insisted that the actions of a few did not
reflect the conduct of the military as a whole. Taguba’s report, however,
amounts to an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of
Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is
one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely
violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners
was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract
employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by
intimidation and torture, was the priority.
The mistreatment at Abu Ghraib may have done little to
further American intelligence, however. Willie J. Rowell, who served for
thirty-six years as a C.I.D. agent, told me that the use of force or
humiliation with prisoners is invariably counterproductive. “They’ll tell
you what you want to hear, truth or no truth,” Rowell said. “‘You can flog
me until I tell you what I know you want me to say.’ You don’t get righteous
Under the fourth Geneva convention, an occupying power
can jail civilians who pose an “imperative” security threat, but it must
establish a regular procedure for insuring that only civilians who remain a
genuine security threat be kept imprisoned. Prisoners have the right to
appeal any internment decision and have their cases reviewed. Human Rights
Watch complained to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that civilians in
Iraq remained in custody month after month with no charges brought against
them. Abu Ghraib had become, in effect, another Guantánamo.
As the photographs from Abu Ghraib make clear, these
detentions have had enormous consequences: for the imprisoned civilian
Iraqis, many of whom had nothing to do with the growing insurgency; for the
integrity of the Army; and for the United States’ reputation in the world.
Captain Robert Shuck, Frederick’s military attorney,
closed his defense at the Article 32 hearing last month by saying that the
Army was “attempting to have these six soldiers atone for its sins.”
Similarly, Gary Myers, Frederick’s civilian attorney, told me that he would
argue at the court-martial that culpability in the case extended far beyond
his client. “I’m going to drag every involved intelligence officer and
civilian contractor I can find into court,” he said. “Do you really believe
the Army relieved a general officer because of six soldiers? Not a chance.”
'Too Nice' Jail Commander Is Fired
October 17 2002
The commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp - who was criticised in the United States press for being too soft on the inmates - has been dismissed.
Brigadier-General Rick Baccus was relieved of his duties as camp commander and as an officer in the Rhode Island National Guard on October9, five days after a newspaper report quoted military sources as saying he was "too nice" to the 598 inmates, and was consequently making it hard for interrogators to extract information from them.
The dismissal came as 12 Kuwaiti prisoners mounted the first organised legal and diplomatic effort to challenge the US policy that holds terrorism suspects indefinitely at Guantanamo without court hearings or charges being filed.
Officials at the base said General Baccus had left because his unit, responsible for running Camp Delta, had been merged with Joint Task Force 170, a combined unit drawn from the Defence Intelligence Agency, CIA and FBI, which questions the inmates.
In August General Baccus told journalists that uniformed officers had concerns that the Guantanamo Bay inmates continued to be labelled "enemy combatants" rather than "prisoners of war", a classification that would give them more rights under the Geneva Convention.
On October4 The Washington Times reported that the chief interrogator, Major-General Michael Dunlavey, was irritated by the prisoners' treatment, particularly by General Baccus's decision to let the Red Cross put up posters reminding inmates they need only provide their interrogators with their name, rank and number. General Dunlavey has since taken over General Baccus's duties.
The Kuwaiti prisoners are largely backed by the Government of Kuwait, a US ally, in a case that gives voice for the first time to those captured in the war in Afghanistan and shipped to the makeshift prison in Cuba.
The 12 captives contend they are not members of al-Qaeda, nor the Taliban, but charity workers who were helping refugees created by Afghanistan's harsh regime when they were caught up in the chaos of the war last northern autumn and winter. In trying to flee to Pakistan, they say, they fell into the hands of Pakistanis who "sold" them to US troops, collecting a bounty.
Their families have retained a Washington firm that specialises in international law.
The Guardian, Los Angeles Times
He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years
He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn't kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you
And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way
And he's fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
who's to live and who's to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls
But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on
He's the universal soldier and he
really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.