US Torture at Abu Ghraib: Seeing Is Believing

So many people have shrugged off the stories of US Death Brigaders – at the behest of their leaders – torturing detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard right-wing talk hosts attempting to minimize the atrocities there or to shift blame. Well, those wingnut-radio types are going to have to change their tune: More than 60 newly obtained photographs — previously suppressed by the US government — have been published that depict the horrors at the prison camp near Baghdad.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

[Australian newsmagazine “Dateline” … broadcast about 60 previously unpublished photographs that the US Government has been fighting to keep secret in a court case with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although a US judge last year granted the union access to the photographs following a freedom-of-information request, the US Administration has appealed against the decision on the grounds their release would fuel anti-American sentiment.

Some of the photos are similar to those published in 2004, others are different. They include photographs of six corpses, although the circumstances of their deaths are not clear. There are also pictures of what appear to be burns and wounds from shotgun pellets.

The executive producer of “Dateline,” Mike Carey, said he was showing the pictures leaked to his program because it was important people understood what had happened at Abu Ghraib.

Seven US guards were jailed following publication of the first batch of Abu Ghraib photographs in April 2004.

The shots are highly disturbing. I will show a couple of them here, but to see more, follow this link to Truthout.

This photo shows a detainee being tortured most invasively.

According to Australia’s “Dateline,” this handcuffed, mentally ill man was used as a “plaything” by US soldiers; here, he is repeatedly smashing his head into a metal cell door.

Other images show prisoners forced to engage in public masturbation, dogs being used to terrorize detainees and prisoners who have been seriously wounded.

The Special Broadcasting System, the network that airs “Dateline,” said it also learned that US Killing Squadders, having run out of rubber bullets during a prison riot, used live ammunition instead – a move that left several prisoners dead. The network will not reveal where or from whom it obtained the photographs.

For their part, US State Department sources told the New York Times that the photos added no new information to what has already been discovered about the doings at Abu Ghraib.

The State Department legal adviser, John B. Bellinger 3d, said the latest pictures “show once again just the reprehensible conduct that was going on in Abu Ghraib,” conduct “that is absolutely disgusting.”

Mr. Bellinger noted that, following the instances of abuse in late 2003 and their disclosure early in 2004, there had been numerous public investigations, prosecutions and internal reviews. “And it’s unfortunate, in fact, that these photographs are coming out further and fanning the flames,” Mr. Bellinger said, referring to the Australian broadcast.

But critics of the Pentagon’s handling of the episode said the latest disclosures only confirm the need for a truly independent investigation into abuse of prisoners not only at Abu Ghraib but in Afghanistan and at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba. The critics say only an outside investigation could adequately look into possible wrongdoing up the entire chain of command, to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Bill Goodman, the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said his organization would continue to sue the federal government to release all pertinent videotapes and photographs. He the State Department’s assertion that it would be better to keep them under wraps “absurd” and reflective of an administration philosophy that “the less information the people have, the better democracy operates.”

That’s a philosophy that needs to end – as does the Bushites’ propensity for stifling congressional efforts to put an end to the armed forces’ torture practices. Human-rights organization Amnesty International notes that an anti-torture measure reaffirming the ban on the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment was passed by Congress. In signing the bill into law, though, Bush issued a “signing statement” giving him the right to waive that ban and use inhuman treatment whenever he deems it necessary (meaning, whenever he chooses).

Amnesty is among those calling on Congress to pass House Resolution 3003, which would set up an independent commission to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in US custody and determine responsibility up the chain of command. You can join Amensty’s call to probe detainee abuse and contact lawmakers here.

Meanwhile, America’s partner-in-invasion, the UK, is dealing with its own torture scandal. Video footage of British troops assaulting Iraqi civilians in the town of Amarah has sparked international outrage.

From the Washington Post‘s Jefferson Morley:

The video shows the soldiers dragging the Iraqis away from a street confrontation and beating them with nightsticks.

“All the while the callous cameraman delivers a stomach-churning commentary urging his mates on, cackling with laughter and screaming: ‘Oh yes! Oh yes! You’re gonna get it. Yes, naughty little boys! You little f***ers, you little f***ers. DIE! Ha, ha!'” News of the World reported.

“The reputation of the British Army in Iraq has suffered another serious setback,” said the Times of London, which, like News of the World, is owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch.

“No matter how often the Ministry of Defence and senior military figures put such incidents into statistical context, emphasising that a tiny minority of soldiers have erred when compared with the 80,000 who have served in Iraq since 2003, the apparent violent indiscipline demonstrated by the troops in the video provides further evidence of an extraordinary lack of control . . . These are not soldiers engaging in some form of unauthorised extracurricular activity, but members of a battle group sent out to deal with rioting Iraqis and to take arrested offenders for interrogation back in the barracks.”

Morley reports that media in Arab and Muslim countries are uniformly outraged over the video.

Now, London’s Daily Telegraph reports that a UK soldier believed to have shot that damning footage has been arrested. Britain’s Ministry of Defence has not confirmed whether the soldier was being questioned as a witness or as a suspect. It will say, however, that the regiment accused of the assaults is under investigation.

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