April 30, 2004
The Guardian

U.S. Military in Torture Scandal

Use of private contractors in Iraqi jail interrogations highlighted by inquiry into abuse of prisoners

by Julian Borger

Graphic photographs showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a US-run prison outside Baghdad emerged yesterday from a military inquiry which has left six soldiers facing a possible court martial and a general under investigation.

The scandal has also brought to light the growing and largely unregulated role of private contractors in the interrogation of detainees.

According to lawyers for some of the soldiers, they claimed to be acting in part under the instruction of mercenary interrogators hired by the Pentagon.

US military investigators discovered the photographs, which include images of a hooded prisoner with wires fixed to his body, and nude inmates piled in a human pyramid.

The pictures, which were obtained by an American TV network, also show a dog attacking a prisoner and other inmates being forced to simulate sex with each other. It is thought the abuses took place in November and December last year. . . .


[The first defense is to lie. If exposed, the second defense is to investigate, but not too much; the press will publicize, but they will not get to the heart of the matter.--Howard Zinn, "Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology," HarperPerrenial (1991), p. 225]

[Many of the detainees, including women, have been tortured during interrogation and subjected to abysmal conditions of confinement.--Hanny Megally, "Israel Responsible for Abuses in Khiam Prison," Human Rights Watch, October 28, 1999]

[Khiam prison was a detention and interrogation centre during the years of the Israeli occupation in Southern Lebanon. From 1985 until the Israeli withdrawal this May, thousands of Lebanese were held in Khiam without trial. Most of them were brutally tortured - some of them died.--VIDEO: "Israel accused," BBC Correspondent, November 3, 2000]

["Put simply, the School of the Americas has trained some of the most brutal assassins, some of the cruelest dictators, and some of the worst abusers of human rights the western hemisphere has ever seen," Moakley (Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass) said in a statement. "If we don't stand for human rights down in Georgia, how can we possibly expect to promote them anywhere else in the world?"--Enver Masud, "America at the Crossroads: Might v. Right, Confrontation v. Dialogue," The Wisdom Fund, September 13, 2001

[Negroponte (the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq) acquired a reputation, justified or not, as an old-fashioned imperialist. Sending him to the UN serves notice that the Bush administration will not be bound by diplomatic niceties as it conducts its foreign policy. . . .

Florencio Caballero, has given a detailed account of the "horrible things" he did to dissidents in secret jails; one of the few survivors, Ines Murillo, has corroborated his account, describing an eighty-day ordeal that included beatings, electric shocks, and sexual abuse.--Stephen Kinzer, "Our Man in Honduras," The New York Review of Books, September 20, 2001]

VIDEO: "Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death," ACFTV, February 4, 2003

[The international outcry over the display of American casualties and prisoners on Iraqi state television is thoroughly justified."Bush's Outrage Rings Hollow," Independent, March 25, 2003]

Richard T. Cooper, "General Casts War in Religious Terms," Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2003

Rahul Mahajan, "Opening the Gates of Hell," The Wisdom Fund, April 7, 2004

[A US general has been suspended in Iraq over the alleged abuse of prisoners by US troops in jails she ran. Brigadier General Janice Karpinski is among seven officers being investigated--"US general suspended over abuse," BBC News, April 29, 2004]

[The graphic images include . . . naked prisoners being forced to simulate sex acts. In another, a female soldier, with a cigarette in her mouth, simulates holding a gun and pointing at a naked Iraqi's genitals.--"Iraqi abuse photos spark shock," BBC News, April 30, 2004]

Seymour Hersh, "TORTURE AT ABU GHRAIB," The New Yorker, April 30, 2004

"Iraq: 'Torture' photographs - torture not isolated, full investigations vital," Amnesty International, April 30, 2004

Raymond Whitaker, Andy McSmith and Andrew Johnson, "Horrific new evidence of soldiers' brutality in Iraq: Secret report from notorious Baghdad jail reveals beatings, rape and torture of prisoners by US troops," The Independent, May 2, 2004

Scott Wilson, " Angry Ex-Detainees Tell of Abuse," The Washington Post, May 3, 2004

James Risen, "Command Errors Aided Iraq Abuse, Army Has Found," The New York Times, May 3, 2004

"Former human rights minister told Bremer about Iraq detainee abuse," AFP, May 3, 2004

Tom Regan, "US general: Abu Ghraib abuse coverup," Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2004

Angus Howarth, " Outrage at murder of Iraqi prisoners by US personnel," The Scotsman, May 5, 2004

Julian Borger, "Jailed Iraqis hidden from Red Cross, says US army," Guardian, May 5, 2004

Ahdaf Soueif, "This torture started at the very top: A profound racism infects the US and British establishments," Guardian, May 5, 2004

Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt, "Army Discloses Criminal Inquiry on Prison Abuse," New York Times, May 5, 2004

[These pictures are pictures of colonial behavior, the demeaning of occupied people, the insult to local tradition, the humiliation of the vanquished. --Philip Kennicott, "A Wretched New Picture Of America: Photos From Iraq Prison Show We Are Our Own Worst Enemy," Washington Post, May 5, 2004]

Christian Davenport, "New Prison Images Emerge," Washington Post, May 6, 2004

[Most Americans truly believe--take this to be self-evident--that the United States is not only the world's greatest country, but it has always been the last great hope of earth, that Americans have always been willing, more than any other Western power, to take on the White Man's burden, to bring life, liberty and happiness to the rest of mankind. This is a testament to the power of American media: that it can claim to be the world's freest media and yet control--like no other 'free' media--what an overwhelming majority of Americans know and believe about their country. And what they know and believe is America the free, pure and virtuous.--M. Shahid Alam, "Is the Game Over?," CounterPunch, May 7, 2004]

[He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre--David Leigh, "UK forces taught torture methods," Guardian, May 8, 2004]

Peter Slevin and Robin Wright, "Abuse reports began almost at war's start," San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 2004

Dana Priest and Joe Stephens, "Pentagon Approved Tougher Interrogations," Washington Post, May 9, 2004

[According to a political appointee within the Bush administration and U.S. intelligence sources, the interrogators at Abu Ghraib included a number of Arabic-speaking Israelis--Wayne Madsen, "The Israeli Torture Template," CounterPunch, May 10, 2004]

[US forces in Vietnam routinely threw prisoners from helicopters, burned them alive with white phosphorus, or wiped out entire villages without a second thought.--Eric Margolis, " AMERICA'S SHAME,", May 10, 2004]

Philip Webster, Tim Reid and Roland Watson, "Red Cross warned of abuse again and again," The Times, May 11, 2004

Dana Priest and Joe Stephens, "Secret World of U.S. Interrogation," Washington Post, May 11, 2004

[A Senate hearing into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was told on Tuesday that Lt. Gen. William Boykin, an evangelical Christian under review for saying his God was superior to that of the Muslims, briefed a top Pentagon civilian official last summer on recommendations on ways military interrogators could gain more intelligence from Iraqi prisoners.--Andrea Shalal-Esa, "General Who Made Anti-Islam Remark Tied to POW Case," Reuters, May 11, 2004]

Andrea Shalal-Esa, "Evangelical "Holy War" General Boykin Tied To Iraq POW Scandal,", May 11, 2004

[. . . what is taking place in Iraq is child's play compared to what we did in the Philippines a century ago.--Patrick J. Buchanan, "A Time for Truth,", May 12, 2004]

["He pointed the laser sight directly in the middle of my chest," said Professor Shaker, a political scientist at Baghdad University. "Then he pointed to his penis. He told me, 'Come here, bitch, I'm going to fuck you.'"--Luke Harding, "Focus shifts to jail abuse of women," Guardian, May 12, 2004]

["He got all the agencies together-the C.I.A. and the N.S.A.-to get pre-approval in place. Just say the code word and go." The operation had across-the-board approval from Rumsfeld and from Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser. President Bush was informed of the existence of the program, the former intelligence official said.

"The rules are 'Grab whom you must. Do what you want.'"--Seymour M. Hersh, "How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib," The New Yorker, May 15, 2004]

Andrew Buncombe and Kim Sengupta, "Secret U.S. Jails Hold 10,000," New Zealand Herald, May 15, 2004

[THE THIRD GENEVA CONVENTION forbids subjecting POWs to "cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity and humiliating treatment." U.S. officials say Iraqi and Taliban captives are covered by the convention but al-Qaeda members are unlawful combatants and thus not covered. The convention says tribunals must decide a prisoner's status.

THE CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE defines torture as any act that inflicts severe pain or suffering, physical or mental. When the U.S. ratified the convention in 1990, it defined torture as anything cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment. The convention prohibits countries from handing over captives to another state know to employ torture.--TIME, May 17, 2004, p.45]

[ . . . part of a policy instituted at US military detention centres from Guantanamo and Afghanistan to Iraq,--Suzanne Goldenberg, "General's sacking cleared way for Pentagon to rewrite rules," The Guardian, May 19, 2004]

John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, "The Roots of Torture: The road to Abu Ghraib began after 9/11, when Washington wrote new rules to fight a new kind of war," Newsweek International, May 24, 2004

[Some said they were pressed to denounce Islam or were force-fed pork and liquor. Many provided graphic details of how they were sexually humiliated and assaulted, threatened with rape, and forced to masturbate in front of female soldiers.--Dana Priest and Joe Stephens, " New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge: Abu Ghraib Detainees' Statements Describe Sexual Humiliation And Savage Beatings," Washington Post, May 21, 2004]

Scott Higham and Joe Stephens, "Videos Amplify Picture of Violence," Washington Post, May 21, 2004

Julian Borger, "US general linked to Abu Ghraib abuse," Guardian, May 22, 2004

Kamal Ahmed, "Iraqis lose right to sue troops over war crimes: Military win immunity pledge in deal on UN vote," The Observer, May 23, 2004

"Israeli Agents Believed Involved in Abu Ghraib,", May 24, 2004

[The Pentagon and the occupation powers in Iraq insist that only US citizens have been allowed to question prisoners in Abu Ghraib - but this takes no account of Americans who may also hold double citizenship. The once secret torture report by US General Antonio Taguba refers to "third country nationals" involved in the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq.--Robert Fisk, "The things Bush didn't mention in his speech," Independent, May 26, 2004]

Robert Evans, "UN Says U.S.-Led Forces Violated Rights in Iraq," Reuters, June 4, 2004

Steven Lee Myers and Eric Schmitt, "Wide Gaps Seen in U.S. Inquiries on Prison Abuse," New York Times, June 6, 2004

[Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department is doing its best to stop potentially incriminating information from coming out, that it's deflecting Congress's inquiries and shielding higher-ups from investigation. Documents obtained by NEWSWEEK also suggest that Rumsfeld's aides are trying hard to contain the scandal, even within the Pentagon.--Michael Hirsh and John Barry, "The Abu Ghraib Scandal Cover-Up?," Newsweek, June 7, 2004]

Chris Shumway, "Pattern Emerges of Sexual Assault Against Women Held by U.S. Forces," The NewStandard, June 6, 2004

Jess Bravin, "Pentagon Report Set Framework For Use of Torture," The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2004

[A separate independent investigation is needed to probe how the Bush administration altered standard Army interrogation policies after 2001 . . . Since the administration is unwilling to undertake such a review, Congress must act.--Editorial: " Remedies for Prisoner Abuse," Washington Post, June 7, 2004]

[. . . most of the administration's top lawyers, with the exception of those at the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approved of the Justice Department's position that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the war in Afghanistan. In addition, that memorandum, dated Feb. 2, 2002, noted that lawyers for the Central Intelligence Agency had asked for an explicit understanding that the administration's public pledge to abide by the spirit of the conventions did not apply to its operatives. . . .

The March memorandum also contains a curious section in which the lawyers argued that any torture committed at Guantanamo would not be a violation of the anti-torture statute because the base was under American legal jurisdiction and the statute concerns only torture committed overseas. That view is in direct conflict with the position the administration has taken in the Supreme Court, where it has argued that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are not entitled to constitutional protections because the base is outside American jurisdiction.--Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt, "Lawyers Decided Bans on Torture Didn't Bind Bush," New York Times, June 8, 2004

[But that the United States has been complicit with torture in Vietnam and Latin America, there can be no doubt.--Stephen Kinzer, "Feels Like the Third Time," The American Prospect, June 11, 2004]

Dana Priest, "Justice Dept. Memo Says Torture 'May Be Justified'," Washington Post, June 13, 2004

[Americans are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to capture suspects and to ensure that they are taken to an environment where information can be extracted as speedily as possible.--Jason Burke, "Secret World of US Jails," Observer, June 13, 2004]

"Letter sent to the United States Congress regarding recent human rights issues in Iraq," June 16, 2004

["The U.S. government is holding prisoners in a secret system of off-shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability of law," said the report.--Sue Pleming, "Report Says U.S. Has 'Secret' Detention Centers," Reuters, June 17, 2004]

["I accept the legal conclusion of the attorney general and the department of justice that I have the authority to suspend Geneva [conventions] as between the US and Afghanistan," Mr Bush writes. "I reserve the right to exercise this authority in this or future conflicts."--Suzanne Goldenberg, "Bush memos show stance on torture," Guardian, June 24, 2004]

Rupert Cornwell, "US backs down over immunity for soldiers," Independent, June 24, 2004

Robin Wright, "U.S. Immunity In Iraq Will Go Beyond June 30," Washington Post, June 24, 2004

"More Than 100 Children Imprisoned: Report Of Abuse By U.S. Soldiers," Der Spiegel, July 4, 2004

"U.S. News obtains all classified annexes to the Taguba report on Abu Ghraib," U.S. News, July 9, 2004

Charles Arthur, "'Secret film shows Iraq prisoners sodomised'," Independent, July 16, 2004

Editorial: "An Army Whitewash," Washington Post, July 24, 2004

Richard A. Serrano, "Pentagon Cites Widespread Involvement in Prison Abuses," Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2004

[The causal chain is all there: from Bush's February 2002 decision to Rumsfeld's December 2002 authorization of nudity, stress positions and dogs; to the adoption of those methods in Afghanistan and their sanction in Iraq by a commander looking back to Bush's decision; and finally, to their use on detainees by soldiers who reasonably believed they were executing official policy.--Jackson Diehl, "How Torture Came Down From the Top," Washington Post, July 27, 2004]

Seymour M. Hersh, "Chain of Command : The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib," HarperCollins (September 13, 2004)

Carol D. Leonnig, "U.S. Stymies Detainee Access Despite Ruling, Lawyers Say," Washington Post, October 14, 2004

Inigo Gilmore, "Jordan 'ghost' jail 'is holding senior al-Qa'eda leaders'," The Telegraph, October 14, 2004

Dana Priest, "Memo Lets CIA Take Detainees Out of Iraq: Practice Is Called Serious Breach of Geneva Conventions," Washington Post, October 24, 2004

James Hidge and Linda Cooper, "The CIA and Abu Ghraib: 50 Years of Teaching and Training Torturers," CounterPunch, November 3, 2004

Stephen Grey, "US accused of 'torture flights'," Times, November 14, 2004

R. Jeffrey Smith and Dan Eggen, "New Papers Suggest Detainee Abuse Was Widespread," Washington Post, December 21, 2004

Josh White, "Systematic Concealment Of Detainees Is Found," Washington Post, March 24, 2005

Nick Meo, "UN investigator who exposed US army abuse forced out of his job," Independent, April 25, 2005

[. . . members of Congress were allowed to see a slide show of 1,800 Abu Ghraib photographs.--Matt Welch, "The Pentagon's Secret Stash: Why we'll never see the second round of Abu Ghraib photos," Reason, April 2005]

Eugene Robinson, "Torture Whitewash," Washington Post, May 3, 2005

Greg Mitchell, "Pentagon Blocks Release of Abu Ghraib Images: Here's Why," Editor & Publisher, July 23, 2005

Jennifer Harbury, "Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture," Beacon Press (September 15, 2005)

Editorial: "Vice President for Torture," Washington Post, October 26, 2005

[It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States, which is why the CIA placed them overseas--Dana Priest, "CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons," Washington Post, November 2, 2005]


VIDEO: "The Torture Question," Frontline, October 18, 2005

VIDEO: Robert Fisk, "We Have Become the Criminals...We Have No Further Moral Cause to Fight For," Democracy Now!, November 9, 2005

VIDEO: Olivia Rousset, "Lifting the Hood: The Prisoners of Abu Ghraib," Dateline (Australia), November 9, 2005

VIDEO: Alfred W. McCoy, "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror," Metropolitan Books (January 10, 2006)

VIDEO: "Photos reignite Middle East anger," Reuters, February 16, 2006

[American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq.--Eric Fair, "An Iraq Interrogator's Nightmare," Washington Post, February 9, 2007]

VIDEO: In 1971, psychology professor Philip Zimbardo created the Stanford Prison Experiment in which 24 college students were randomly assigned the roles of prison guards and prisoners at a makeshift jail on campus. The experiment was scheduled to run for two weeks. By Day Two, the guards were going far beyond just keeping the prisoners behind bars. In scenes eerily similar to Abu Ghraib, prisoners were stripped naked, bags put on their heads and sexually humiliated. The two-week experiment had to be canceled after just six days.--Philip Zimbardo, "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil," Random House (March 27, 2007)

Jan Crawford Greenburg et al, "Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'", ABC News, April 9, 2008

Iraq Veterans Against the War, "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations," Haymarket Books (September 1, 2008)

Aaron Glantz, "How the U.S. Military Turned Me into a Terrorist," AlterNet, October 13, 2008

["The classified memos, which have not been previously disclosed, were requested by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet more than a year after the start of the secret interrogations, according to four administration and intelligence officials familiar with the documents."--Dan Froomkin, "Torture's Smoking Guns," Washington Post, October 15, 2008]

A.J. Langguth, "U.S. Has a 45-year History of Torture," Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2009

Duncan Gardham and Paul Cruickshank, "Abu Ghraib Abuse Photos 'Show Rape'," Telegraph, May 28, 2009

Scott Horton"The Bogus Torture Coverup," Daily Beast, May 30, 2009

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