U.S. Torture in Abu Ghraib Prison

Revolutionary Worker #1239, May 9, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

iraq torture photo 1

 iraq torture photo 2

 iraq torture photo 3

 iraq torture photo 4

iraq torture photo 5

Since 9/11, reports all over the world have charged that the U.S. was ruthlessly torturing captives in its so-called "war on terrorism." This was, of course, denied at the highest levels. In fact, Bush said his armies were freeing Iraq's people from the "torture chambers and rape cells" of Saddam Hussein.

Now shocking undeniable evidence has emerged of what has really gone on.

Dozens of photographs have been leaked showing how U.S. soldiers and CIA interrogators have been torturing Iraqi prisoners. These photos, shown widely in the U.S., the Middle East and throughout the world, have produced shock and profound outrage.

The pictures were taken inside Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad--the very place feared under Saddam Hussein as a place of torture. And clearly, under U.S. occupaton, the extreme brutality has continued.

These photos show Iraqi men, usually naked with suffocating hoods over their heads, being brutalized and humiliated by U.S. Military Police (MPs), who posed in these trophy pictures with wide grins--laughing, posing, mocking the prisoners and giving a big thumbs-up.

In one photo, a robed and hooded Iraqi is shown balanced on small box, with wires attached to his fingers--he was forced to stand for hours, and was told that if he fell over from exhaustion, the wires would electrocute him.

Another photo shows an Iraqi prisoner after he had been beaten to death. Another (still unreleased) shows a prisoner with electric wires attached to his genitals. Yet another shows a dog being unleashed to attack a helpless prisoner.

Many other photos (which can be seen on http://thememoryhole.org) show Iraqi prisoners forced into humiliating poses--forced to mimick sexual situations on each other. They are piled naked in great heaps, while MP prison guards pose over them like trophy hunters. The Army has said that guards also forced prisoners to masturbate publicly and beat each other.

The journal of one of the prison guards documented that prisoners were forbidden to speak and were punished by being placed naked in isolation cells without toilets or ventilation.

Last September, apparently as these tortures were going on, the prison was personally visited by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld--and on the tour, reporters were told that the growing reports of torture were simply a lie.

As news of these events leaked out, the U.S. government swung into full "damage control" mode. First it was announced, last month, that 17 soldiers were being removed from duty. Six low-level MP reservists are facing trial. But the details were kept secret.

Once the photos surfaced, even Bush claimed, "That's not the way we do things in America. I don't like it one bit."

But, in fact, it is the way the U.S. military has been doing things. Even Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of coalition operations in Iraq, had to admit: "I'd like to sit here and say that these are the only prisoner abuse cases that we're aware of, but we know that there have been some other ones since we've been here in Iraq."

These photos document the kinds of torture that has been widespread in U.S. global operations--in prison camps holding tens of thousands of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. In "sub- contracted" arrangements, the U.S. also turns over prisoners to be tortured by the secret police in Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

The lawyers for six arrested soldiers explained that the MPs involved in this brutalization were following orders- -that they had been told to "soften up" the prisoners for the interrogations-to-come.

Attorney Gary Myers said these acts were done on the orders of the CIA, "The elixir of power, the elixir of believing that you're helping the CIA, for God's sake, when you're from a small town in Virginia, that's intoxicating. helping people they view as important."

"The brazenness with which these soldiers conducted themselves, snapping photographs and flashing the `thumbs-up' sign as they abused prisoners, suggests they felt they had nothing to hide from their superiors," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded MP reservists in this prison, confirmed this. She pointed out that the interrogations in the prison were run by Military Intelligence (MI) and the CIA. And that one photo showed the legs of 16 different Americans--far more than the number of low-level MPs assigned as guards.

In addition, photos have also surfaced documenting torture by British forces in southern Iraq--including hours of beatings that shattered teeth and battering with rifle butts. One photo shows a uniformed British soldier urinating on a hooded prisoner.

One of the soldiers now facing court martial is Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick, a former prison guard from a Virginia state prison, He explained to 60 Minutes II (April 29)that his treatment of prisoners was closely connected with the plans for ongoing interrogation: "We had military intelligence, we had all kinds of other government agencies, FBI, CIA." In a letter home he wrote: "Military intelligence has encouraged and told us `Great job.'.They usually don't allow others to watch them interrogate. But since they like the way I run the prison, they have made an exception.. We help getting them to talk with the way we handle them. ... We've had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break. They usually end up breaking within hours."

However, none of the higher-level interrogators are facing criminal charges. Some of these torturers-in-charge are so-called "civilian contractors," and therefore even military law doesn't apply to them. One of the "contractors" was originally accused along with soldiers of atrocities. The contractor had raped a teenage boy during interrogations. The central command spokesman Colonel Jill Morgenthaler said: "We had no jurisdiction over him. It was left up to the contractor on how to deal with him." In other words, privatization of CIA operations has gone so far that torturers in U.S. military prisons are "above any law" and are merely turned over to their employers (which often means a CIA front). Two firms have been named in this privatized torture system: CACI International Inc based in Virginia and the Titan Corporation of San Diego.

Reporters have described how outside this prison there are always crowds of hundreds of Iraqi people--relatives of the prisoners--worried sick about what the U.S. invaders are doing to their loved ones.