Resort to Torture
By Ghali Hassan
Clearing House" - - In his
February “diplomatic offensive” tour of
Europe, George Bush and his media entourage were more interested
in fiction and hypocrisy than reality and respect for the rules of
law. The tour was designed to garner support for America’s
unending wars and imperial conquest sold as “democracy” and
“freedom”. Mr Bush most obedient representative in Europe, PM
Tony Blair of Britain urged Europeans to remember “our shared
values” with Americans.
A recently released army documents detail ongoing sadistic abuse,
torture and murder of Iraqi Prisoners of War (POW) and Iraqi
detainees by US and British forces in occupied Iraq. The documents
of more than 24,000 pages were released on behalf of the American
Civil Liberty Union (ACLU); the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR),
Physician for Human Rights (PHR), Veterans for Common Sense (VCS)
and Veterans for Peace (VP) under the Freedom of Information Act
in response to a Federal Court Order directed the Pentagon and
other agencies to comply with the year old request .
The new documents and other documents received by the ACLU revealed that
the illegal practice of abuse and torture of Iraqi men, women and
children took place immediately after the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Iraqi POW and Iraqi detainees not only at Abu Ghraib, the West’s
convenient propaganda, but also throughout Iraq were imprisoned,
abused, tortured and murdered by British and US soldiers.
The practice, which started in Iraq immediately after the
invasion, was secret until Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker
magazines broke the silence on the complicity of Western media in
the crimes against the Iraqi people.
In today’s Iraq, the Occupation forces and their surrogates imprison
more than a million Iraqi men, women and children. According to
the Occupation mouthpiece, The New York Times, in just two
major prisons in Iraq, US military is holding at least 8,900
detainees. At Abu Ghraib there are 3,160 Iraqi prisoners, 660 more
than the military's own recommended level of 2,500 prisoners. The
largest US prison, Camp Bucca in the south, has at least 5,600
detainees. There are hundreds of other prisons throughout Iraq.
The British occupying forces built their own prisons.
The army documents show that Iraqi POW and detainees were/are subjected
to systematic interrogation by Occupation forces that included
physical, sexual and psychological abuse and torture.
The so-called ‘interrogative techniques’ used by
Occupation forces in Iraq and in US prisons around the world draw
heavily on the internal report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba,
providing a long list of “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal
abuses” which include: pointing loaded guns at prisoners; pouring cold water on detainees; bashing detainees with chairs and broom
handles; threatening male detainees with anal rape; slamming
detainees against cell walls; sodomizing a detainee with a
chemical light; using guard dogs to intimidate detainees and, in
one instance, setting a dog onto a detainee; videotaping naked
male and female detainees; forcibly arranging detainees into
various sexually explicit positions and photographing them;
forcing detainees to remain naked for days; forcing naked male
detainees to wear women's underwear; forcing groups of male
detainees to masturbate whilst being videotaped and photographed;
arranging detainees in piles and then jumping on them; writing
‘I am a rapest [sic]’ on a detainee and then forcing him to
rape a 15 year old fellow detainee; and placing a dog collar
around the neck of naked detainee and then having a female soldier
pose with him for a photograph. This makes
a precise fit with the official policy that anything short of
killing and decapitating is a legitimate way of breaking people
down for interrogation .
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
reported on 13 May 2004, that an Australian man who is contracted to rebuild oil
pipelines in Iraq witnessed terrible abuse of Iraqi prisoners by
US soldiers. The man, who identified as ‘Harry’, said recent
pictures of American soldiers torturing prisoners are just the
‘tip of the iceberg’. ‘What you're seeing in the photographs
now really is tame’, he said. ‘You think about it, these
pictures [are ones] that they've published on the net to send to
their friends, the real stuff that's going on there is far, far
beyond this’. He said that he has ‘seen far worse while
working in Tikrit’, Iraq.
In an interview with an Iraqi women prisoner at Abu Ghraib, Giuliana
Sgrena, of Il manifesto, the Italian
daily Newspaper, reported on 01 July 2004, “Iraqis females are
arrested at random by US forces”. One
Iraqi female prisoner told Sgrena, ‘without warning, American
soldiers broke into [their homes] in the middle of the night abuse
them in front of their children, ransacked the place, and then they arrested me. They
also took all their papers and keys, and stole their savings’.
At Abu Ghraib women were abused and tortured continuously. ‘One
of the prisoners had been forced to walk on all fours and her
knees and elbows were in a terrible state. Another woman had been
forced to separate faeces from urine, using her own hands. The
soldiers frequently forced us to drink water from the toilet bowl.
A woman of sixty, who had said she was a virgin, was continually
threatened with rape’. Sometimes they made a hundred or more
prisoners lie on the ground and then trampled them underfoot’
reported Il manifesto.
In addition to Abu Ghraib where the British are part of the military
‘chain of command’ when the abuse and torture of Iraqi
civilians occurred, British forces have been involved at all
levels in the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners and civilians
throughout Iraq. In Basra, the British have constructed their own
Abu Ghraib, and named it ‘Camp Bread Basket’. Despite the high
level of crimes committed against the Iraqi people, the British
occupiers managed to conceal their crimes until very recently.
British media, which has a history of deception and imperialist
propaganda, performed its usual duty in keeping the British people
well entertained and poorly informed of their government war
crimes. Recent pictures smuggled from inside ‘Camp Bread
Basket’ graphically show how Iraqi prisoners are abused tortured
and murdered by British soldiers who have “shared values” with
US soldiers. The policy of torture is consistent with Britain’s
colonial racism in which non-westerners are regarded as ‘unpeople’.
It is the British who refined these methods, and who provided the
precedent for this “legalised” torture.
This sadistic torture is deeply
rooted in Western racism against Muslims, particularly Arabs. Its origin is
scholarly invented by hardcore Orientalists (imperialists) who saw
the Orient as sexual. “The Middle East is resistant”, wrote
the late Edward Said, “as any virgin would be”, whoever
conquers her win the prize. Those in power easily adopt this
distorted picture of the Middle East, which is artificially
constructed by Western scholars and pundits.
As Seymour Hersh writes in his Chain of Command, “The notion that
Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a
talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months
before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq”. He continues; “One
book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind ... the book
includes a 25-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a
taboo vested with shame and repression”. The book as I know it,
is a piece of collected old imperial rubbish about the Arab
peoples by the racist American anthropologist, Raphael Patai.
It is the Bush administration’s bible on the Arab peoples
is of great concern. Patai described the Middle East as a
“culture area” with no plurality of differences readily
available for generalisation of nonsense.
From a piece of rubbish, the book is resurrected to become the textbook
for the US military on the Middle East. “None of the academics I
contacted thought the book suitable for serious study, although
Georgetown University once invited students to analyse it as ‘an
example of bad, biased social science’”, writes Brian Whitaker
of the Guardian of London. “There is a lot wrong with The
Arab Mind apart from its racism: the title, for a start. Although
the Arab countries certainly have their distinctive
characteristics, the idea that 200 million people, from Morocco to
the Gulf, living in rural villages, urban metropolises and (very
rarely these days) desert tents, think with some sort of single,
collective mind is utterly ridiculous”, he added.
Alfred McCoy, a professor of History at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, analysed the CIA practice of torture in over
half-century in Vietnam, Latin America and Iran, and marvelled at
the recklessness of Western media commentators and pundits. He
writes; “In weighing personal liberty versus public safety, all
those pro-pain pundits were ignorant of torture’s complexity
perverse psychopathology, that leads to both uncontrolled
proliferation of the practice [of torture] and long-term damage to
the perpetrator society”. The practice is morally repugnant
in any civilised society.
The documents released by the ACLU reveal that the practice of abuse and
torture, which is now an established process of the US and British
administrations, has been facilitated and approved by the White
House and Whitehall. It is not an isolated behaviour of a “few
bad apples” suddenly appeared in the US-British military in
Iraq, as propagandised by the mainstream media.
The documents shows that the US administration is guilty of
gross violations of human rights and of a “systematic decision
to alter the use of methods of coercion and torture that lay
outside of accepted and legal norms”.
In April 2003, the Defence Department approved ‘interrogation
techniques’ for use at Guantanamo Bay prison, and then passed
them to Iraq, The Washington Post reported on May 09, 2004.
the strongest evidence that the abuse of prisoners in US hands has
been systemic, not aberrant, is the simplest: it is the fact that
those involved felt it was quite safe to be photographed
repeatedly while committing it”, writes Stephen Sedley, a judge
of the court of appeal for England and Wales.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of the US-based Human Rights Watch,
said these techniques outlined in the US document and approved by
the Pentagon amount to cruel and inhumane treatment. “The courts
have ruled most of these techniques illegal”, he said. “If
it's illegal here under the U.S. Constitution, it's illegal abroad
. . . . This isn't even close”. The fact that the Bush
administration used fake torture stories to influence public
opinion to support the war on Iraq constitutes abuse of public
trust. For example, the faked story of Jumana Hanna, a prostitute,
of torture and rape was amplified in The Washington Post in
July 2003, and used by the war-hungry Deputy Defence Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz in his testimony to the US Senate to justify his
“moral” war on Iraq.
Alberto Gonzales, the new US Attorney, was the White House Legal Council
before the invasion of Iraq. In his memorandum on January
25, 2002, Mr.
Gonzales advised the Bush administration,
the Geneva Convention does not cover POW and detainees of
America’s “war on terror” or the “new paradigm” as Mr.
Gonzales called it. In “my judgement” he writes, “this new
paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy
prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions”.
Gonzales’ advice amount to war crimes under Title 18 U.S.C. section 2441
(The War Crimes Act). The War Crimes Act defines as war crimes:
grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and violations of
Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions. Section 130 of the
Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
(Third Geneva Convention) defines as grave breaches of that
Convention: “wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment”,
and “wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body
or health”. Those
who followed Mr Gonzales advice are equally guilty of war crimes
against the Iraqi people. A detailed case against Mr Gonzales
provides by Marjorie Cohn, professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson
School of Law .
difficult for me to understand why nobody was held accountable for
the abuse of detainees here. There's no justification for kicking
an enemy [POW] when he’s wounded on the ground in front of you
and about to die”,
Jaffer, one of the ACLU lawyers.
Furthermore, in early June 2004, UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights in Geneva condemned the “willful killing,
torture and inhuman treatment” of Iraqis, calling it a “grave
breach” of international law that “might be designated as war
crimes by a competent tribunal.” The scandal was, the
Commissioner added, recognised by even ‘Coalition
leaders’ as “a stain upon the effort to bring freedom to
The West “shared values” have never stood lower in the eyes of Arabs
and Muslims in general. Americans and British at home should know that their
governments are isolated in their old-style adventure of
colonialism, and that the resort to torture is a criminal
practice. They can join the international community in repudiating
a practice that constitute gross violation of human rights and
The systematic policy of abuse, torture and murder of Iraqi POW and
Iraqi civilians by the US and British forces has exposed the lie
that the war was to “liberate” the Iraqi people and to spread
“freedom” and “democracy”. The new tyranny is an old
tyranny in every aspect of life. The only way to end the abuse,
torture and murder of the Iraqi people is the end of the
Occupation of Iraq.
Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia. He can be
contacted by: G.Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au
. The Taguba Report, http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/iraq/tagubarpt.html
. Alfred W. McCoy, Cruel
Science: CIA Torture & U.S. Foreign Policy, NEJPP,
. Marjorie Cohn, The Gonzales Indictment, t r u t h o u t, 19
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