Iraqi detainee abuse scandal

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coverage of Abu Ghraib
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The Iraqi detainee abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca has managed to escape the confines of Bush administration damage control. As of May 5, 2004, in the words of Newsweek's Melinda Liu, the "efforts" at damage control are "picking up steam," but then, so are the accusations and claims of acts of brutality, abuse, and torture.

Liu says that "Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the man sent to clean up Iraq's U.S. Army-run prisons," announced on May 5, 2004, "that the number of detainees held at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison will be reduced by more than half. And in a bid to counter the growing scandal, he's already banned the use of hoods to cover the heads of detainees during transport; instead 'pressure bandages' or goggles will be used to cover prisoners' eyes." [1]

Miller, says Liu, the man "who used to command the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, took over responsibility for Iraq's 14 military-run prisons [in April] after allegations of abuse perpetrated by U.S. military personnel triggered no less than five separate investigations." However, Liu says, "it'll take a lot more to remove the stain of Iraq's current prison abuse scandal." [2]

On May 18, 2004, UPI senior news analyst Martin Sieff reports that "Efforts at the top level of the Bush administration and the civilian echelon of the Department of Defense to contain the Iraq prison torture scandal and limit the blame to a handful of enlisted soldiers and immediate senior officers have already failed: The scandal continues to metastasize by the day.

"Over the past weekend and into this week," he writes, "devastating new allegations have emerged putting Stephen Cambone, the first Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, firmly in the crosshairs and bringing a new wave of allegations cascading down on the head of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when he scarcely had time to catch his breath from the previous ones. [3]

"Even worse for Rumsfeld and his coterie of neo-conservative true believers who have run the Pentagon for the past 3½ years, three major institutions in the Washington power structure have decided that after almost a full presidential term of being treated with contempt and abuse by them, it's payback time. [4]

"Those three institutions are: The United States Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and the old, relatively moderate but highly experienced Republican Party leadership in the United States Senate." [5]

"None of those groups is chopped liver: Taken together they comprise a devastating Grand Slam," Sieff writes. [6]

MSNBC columnist Michael Moran, in his May 18, 2004, "For once, it flows uphill. Abu Ghraib meets Guantanamo Bay" concludes: "Against all the laws of military physics, which suggest that things like the Abu Ghraib mess flow only downhill, the disgrace has crept steadily upward. It overtook the Pentagon's first line of defense, the non-commissioned MPs who served in the prison, almost immediately. The general commanding at the 'battalion level' also points upward, and the military intelligence officers Gen. Miller suggested should set the tone at the prison also say they acted under orders."

Abuse More Widespread

"Several US guards allege they witnessed military-intelligence operatives encouraging the abuse of Iraqi prison inmates at four prisons other than Abu Ghraib ... Court transcripts and Army investigator interviews provide the broadest view of evidence that abuses, from forcing inmates to stand in hoods in 49ºC heat to punching them, occurred at a Marine detention camp and three Army prison sites in Iraq besides Abu Ghraib.
"Testimony about tactics used at a Marine prisoner-of-war camp (Camp Whitehorse) near Nasiriyah also raises the question whether coercive techniques were standard procedure for military intelligence units in different service branches and throughout Iraq. ... guards were told to keep enemy prisoners of war ... standing for 50 minutes each hour for up to 10 hours. They would then be interrogated by 'human exploitation teams,' or HETs, comprising intelligence specialists. ... 'The 50/10 technique was used to break down the EPWs and make it easier for the HET member to get information from them,' [according to a guard,] Marine Corporal Otis Antoine."
"Detainees at an Army prison camp near Samarra, north of Baghdad, were said to have been choked and beaten and to have had their hair pulled. Prisoners are also alleged to have been placed in painful positions for hours at Camp Cropper, a prison at Baghdad International Airport for prominent former Iraqi officials. ... Military officials say they are investigating all of those incidents."
"Troops from Poland and other countries in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq also are accused of abusing prisoners, witnesses told Army investigators.
"Witness statements obtained by The Associated Press include other new details about the involvement of U.S. military intelligence soldiers in Iraq, including a civilian interpreter's claim that an Army interrogator forced a prisoner to walk naked through Abu Ghraib prison ... [including] new allegations that coalition forces had beaten prisoners before turning them over to the Americans."
A May 5, 2004, document prepared by the Criminal Investigation Command "at the request of Army officials ... lists the status of investigations into three dozen cases, including the continuing investigation into the notorious abuses at Abu Ghraib." The "summary of deaths and mistreatment involving prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan shows a widespread pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known."
"In Afghanistan, the CIA's secret U.S. interrogation center in Kabul is known as 'The Pit,' named for its despairing conditions. In Iraq, the most important prisoners are kept in a huge hangar near the runway at Baghdad International Airport, say U.S. government officials, counterterrorism experts and others. In Qatar, U.S. forces have been ferrying some Iraqi prisoners to a remote jail on the gigantic U.S. air base in the desert.
"The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where a unit of U.S. soldiers abused prisoners, is just the largest and suddenly most notorious in a worldwide constellation of detention centers that the U.S. military and CIA have operated in the name of counterterrorism or counterinsurgency operations since the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"These prisons and jails are sometimes as small as shipping containers and as large as the sprawling Guantánamo Bay complex in Cuba. They are part of an elaborate CIA and military infrastructure whose purpose is to hold suspected terrorists or insurgents for interrogation and safe-keeping while avoiding U.S. or international court systems, where proceedings and evidence against the accused would be aired in public. Some are even held by foreign governments at the informal request of the United States."

Fatality Count

  • Mike Dorning reports in the May 22, 2004, issue of the Chicago Tribune that the Army disclosed on Friday, May 21st, "that it has investigated the deaths of at least 37 people in Iraq and Afghanistan who died while in custody of U.S. forces since August 2002. [7]
"Death certificates also released Friday listed blunt force injuries or suffocation, sometimes in combination, as the cause of death for eight of the detainees--raising the possibility that some prisoners may have died due to beatings or other mistreatment." [8]
"The full extent of the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners began to emerge last night when the United States announced it had launched investigations into the deaths of 23 detainees and the murder of two others. ... The British Government was also under immense pressure as it admitted that 33 cases of civilian deaths, injuries or ill-treatment in its custody have been looked into."

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