Abu Ghraib: Photographic Evidence of Brutality

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The Photographic Evidence of Brutality at the Abu Ghraib Enemy Prisoner of War prison is detailed below.


The Photographs

"In a collection of hundreds of so-far-unreleased photographs and short digital videos obtained by The Washington Post, U.S. soldiers are shown physically and emotionally abusing detainees last fall in the Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.
"The new pictures and videos go beyond the photos previously released to the public in several ways, amplifying the overt violence against detainees and displaying a variety of abusive techniques previously unseen. They show a group of apparently cavalier soldiers assaulting prisoners, forcing detainees to masturbate, and standing over a naked prisoner while holding a shotgun. Some of the videos echo scenes in previously released still photographs -- such as the stacking of naked detainees -- but the video images render the incidents more vividly."
"The new images do not shed light on who directed the abuse, a question central to the court cases of the 372nd Military Police Company soldiers charged in the abuse scandal. But the pictures do show soldiers appearing to delight in the abuses, and they starkly reveal several detainees cowering in fear." See stills slide show (Washington Post).
"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."
Although it is "still not entirely clear who leaked the photos and how they got into the hands of a '60 Minutes II' producer. What is clear, however, is that the furor over the photos is unlikely to dissipate any time soon. ... And it may only get worse."
  • Ken Guggenheim, "Lawmakers Say New Abuse Photos Even Worse," AP, May 12, 2004: "The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel included torture, humiliation and forced sex beyond what has been seen in public, chagrined members of Congress said Wednesday after viewing fresh photos and videos."
"Some lawmakers have urged the Bush administration to allow the photographs to be released in order to prevent further shocking disclosures."
  • Luc Sante, in his May 11, 2004, New York Times Op-Ed "Tourists and Torturers," writes: "Leaving aside the question of how anyone could have perpetrated the horrors depicted in those pictures, you can't help but wonder why American soldiers would incriminate themselves by posing next to their handiwork. Americans don't seem to have a long tradition of that sort of thing. I can't offhand recall having seen comparable images from any recent wars, although before the digital era amateur photographs were harder to spread. ...
"The pictures from Abu Ghraib are trophy shots. The American soldiers included in them look exactly as if they were standing next to a gutted buck or a 10-foot marlin. That incongruity is not the least striking aspect of the pictures. The first shot I saw, of Specialist Charles A. Graner, Jr. and Pfc. Lynndie R. England flashing thumbs up behind a pile of their naked victims, was so jarring that for a few seconds I took it for a montage. When I registered what I was seeing, I was reminded of something. There was something familiar about that jaunty insouciance, that unabashed triumph at having inflicted misery upon other humans. And then I remembered: the last time I had seen that conjunction of elements was in photographs of lynchings."
"That prison guards would pose captives -- primarily noncombatants, low-level riffraff -- in re-enactments of cable TV smut for the benefit of their friends back home emerges from the mode of thinking that has prevented an accounting of civilian deaths in Iraq since the beginning of the war. If civilian deaths are not recorded, let alone published, it must be because they do not matter, and if they do not matter it must be because the Iraqis are beneath notice. And that must mean that anything done to them is permissible, as long as it does not create publicity that would embarrass the Bush administration. The possible consequences of the Abu Ghraib archive are numerous, many of them horrifying. Perhaps, though, the digital camera will haunt the future career of George W. Bush the way the tape recorder sealed the fate of Richard Nixon."
"Americans must not flinch from absorbing the photographs of what some Americans did in that prison. And they should not flinch from this fact: That pornography is, almost inevitably, part of what empire looks like. It does not always look like that, and does not only look like that. But empire is always about domination. Domination for self-defense, perhaps. Domination for the good of the dominated, arguably. But domination."
"These images are more than merely unfortunate and embarrassing now. They are shaping the way the world sees the Iraq occupation."
  • Noell Straub reported in the May 8, 2004, Boston Herald that the "Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal took an explosive turn yesterday with the revelation that photos and graphic videotapes not yet made public show abuses more horrific than those already seen.
"Signaling the worst revelations are yet to come, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the additional photos show 'acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman.'
"'There are a lot more photographs and videos that exist,' Rumsfeld testified before Congress. ... 'If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact.'
"The unreleased images show American soldiers beating one prisoner almost to death, apparently raping a female prisoner, acting inappropriately with a dead body, and taping Iraqi guards raping young boys, according to NBC News."
  • Noell Straub reported in the May 8, 2004, Boston Herald that the "Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal took an explosive turn yesterday with the revelation that photos and graphic videotapes not yet made public show abuses more horrific than those already seen.
"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned that the scandal, if not dealt with quickly, could turn Iraq into another Vietnam. ... 'We risk losing public support for this conflict,' McCain said. 'As Americans turned away from the Vietnam War, they may turn away from this one.'
"What are the thousand words, I wonder, that are worth the pictures of grinning US soldiers sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison?"
  • The Calcutta, India, Daily Telegraph headlined with the April 30, 2004, Reuters article "Torture pictures blow US cause," which quoted "Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi: "'This is the straw that broke the camel's back for America, ... The liberators are worse than the dictators. They have not just lost the hearts and minds of Iraqis but all the Third World and the Arab countries.'"
  • Tom Engelhardt writes in his May 2, 2004, "Tomgram: Juan Cole on our Photo Wars": [1]
"When you incarcerate large numbers of people beyond the reach of any court and under conditions lacking legality or oversight, it's hardly surprising that an attitude of impunity develops among the imprisoners from which abuse and torture follow all too naturally. From Guantanamo to Iraq and Afghanistan, on military bases and in the foreign prisons of 'friendly' regimes, the Bush administration now holds startling numbers of prisoners under just such circumstances and seems to be in the process of creating an offshore archipelago of injustice.
"In Iraq, the numbers of those held, including women and teenagers, in '16 prisons and other incarceration centers around Iraq', though unknown (possibly even to the U.S. military), are conservatively estimated at ten thousand, and the numbers are likely to be far higher. This week horrific photos were released showing the tortures -- there is no other appropriate word for them -- committed on Iraqi male prisoners by young American guards, male and female, from the 372nd Military Police Company at Saddam Hussein's former prison of Abu Ghraib. Smiling and relaxed, they lord it over naked, hooded Iraqis, looking for all the world as if they were involved in some minor fraternity prank.
"One year ago, when our President was quite literally flying high, his handlers planned the now-infamous mission accomplished photo-op aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln with this November's election in mind. Triumphant images for a second term president. This week, we've seen a very different series of photo releases -- those from Abu Ghraib and those of the American dead on Ted Koppel's Nightline. That only a year separates the two linked moments can't help but take your breath away. And, if the most recent reports pouring in are to be believed, on both accounts, there is more and worse to come. In this week's New Yorker magazine, journalist Seymour Hersh reports that there already existed a scathing secret military report ('an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels') on conditions at Abu Ghraib and the mildest thing that can be said is: 'The 372nd's abuse of prisoners seemed almost routine -- a fact of Army life that the soldiers felt no need to hide.' The worst: that Iraqis were possibly murdered in the prison; that these acts were part of a criminal interrogation policy that leads right up the chain of command; and that some of the brutal interrogations were conducted not just by military intelligence and CIA operatives, but by 'contract' employees -- private interrogators hired by the Pentagon from two companies linked to the Bush administration, one of which reportedly contributed $40,000 to Republican Party coffers -- who are evidently beyond the reach of any law.
"The Bush administration will undoubtedly opt to deal with the photographed acts at Abu Ghraib as isolated incidents, but they were simply the ones where the participants felt so sure of themselves, so cloistered from any sense of possible retribution, that they evidently wanted snapshots, souvenirs to remember it all by. This is, however, part of a developing system, a global Bermuda Triangle of injustice and such acts, or their equivalents, are likely to turn out to be 'routine' elsewhere as well. We must, for instance, now return to the wildest of the tales of abuse told by British prisoners recently released from Guantanamo with a new respect for their possible validity. (And here's a little indication of where we're headed: Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who ran our offshore prison system in Guantanamo, has only recently been reassigned to 'overhaul' our sprawling detention system in Iraq.)"
  • Juan Cole's "The U.S. Has Lost the Battle of the Photographs" follows this article.
  • Bill Gallagher, writing for the May 4, 2004, Niagara Falls Reporter, says that "The battle is over. The United States will never win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. George W. Bush's disastrous war has now produced atrocities that are permanently etched in the minds of the people we 'liberated,' and will be used to foster even more hostility toward the occupying forces.
"The scale of this disaster cannot be overstated," he says. "What has happened cannot be undone and there is evidence of more horrific torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners. The photographs 60 Minutes II aired last week showing U.S. Army Reservists mistreating Iraqi prisoners have prompted a wave of public revulsion around the globe, especially in the Arab world." [2]
  • "CBS News broadcast pictures of a handful of smirking soldiers, male and female, abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners. While the news -- and the pictures -- rocketed around the globe, the military revealed that most of the guards in the pictures were already under arrest and that Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski of the Army Reserve, who ran the military prisons in Iraq, had been admonished and suspended from command in January. Now, months later, the military says it is investigating the allegations." [3]
  • In the May 6, 2004, Washington Post, Christian Davenport reports that "New Prison Images Emerge" and the "Graphic Photos May Be More Evidence of Abuse."
"The collection of photographs begins like a travelogue from Iraq. Here are U.S. soldiers posing in front of a mosque. Here is a soldier riding a camel in the desert. And then: a soldier holding a leash tied around a man's neck in an Iraqi prison. He is naked, grimacing and lying on the floor."
"Grisly photographs taken at Abu Ghraib prison of two dead men may indicate that the violence at the prison went far beyond degrading treatment of detainees. The Bush administration has provided only limited information about one of the men; the other remains a mystery."

Additional External Links

Compilations

2004

"Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes II received an appeal from the Defense Department, and eventually from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to delay this broadcast -- given the danger and tension on the ground in Iraq. 60 Minutes II decided to honor that request, while pressing for the Defense Department to add its perspective to the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison. This week, with the photos beginning to circulate elsewhere, and with other journalists about to publish their versions of the story, the Defense Department agreed to cooperate in our report. ... In many ways, this part of the story is much more intriguing. It is a tale of 'high-politics' between significant members of the media and significant officials at the Pentagon."

2005