Monday, May 03, 2004

Seymour Hersh on U.S. soldiers, spies and mercenaries torturing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison

As shock and outrage over the abuse and torture of imprisoned Iraqis at the hands of U.S. occupation authorities and their agents continues to grow in the face of disturbing photographs of activities in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, leave it to The New Yorker investigative journalist Seymour Hersh to expose more of the story.

In the current issue of the magazine, Hersh's Torture at Abu Ghraib details some of the corucumstances and events at the prison, drawing from an internal U.S. Army report not meant for public consumption.

Hersh writes:

A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating. Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added — “detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.” Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their “extremely sensitive nature.”

As disturbing as the news of the report itself might be, also disturbing was the spectacle of Hersh being interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer about his article.

Although Hersh early, emphatically and repeatedly told Blitzer that Abu Ghraib's prisoners -- at least 60 per cent according to Taguba's report -- were largely ordinary Iraqis picked up at random who had nothing to do with the Iraqi resistance or unrest, yet imprisoned indefinitely without charge, Blitzer repeatedly suggested that those tortured were terrorists of some kind, and implied that torture might be useful to extract information U.S. occupation forces might need.

CNN has been accused of being less than objective in the past, and virtually cheerleading for the tactics and techniques that sparked the current scandal does nothing to alleviate those conerns.

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