The news on America�s torture practices in Iraq keeps getting worse. The latest picture, of two dogs threatening a naked man, and an update by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker are at CHAIN OF COMMAND
And, via Lynette Dumble, see `Our dignity cannot endure this humiliation’:
BAGHDAD, MAY 9: The crouching man is naked, his hands tied and his head covered with a hood. The alabaster sculpture on display at a Baghdad gallery bears a striking resemblance to some of the shocking photographs that emerged last week of Iraqi prisoners abused by their American guards at the Abu Ghraib prison. But the 15-inch sculpture, with the words “We are living in American democracy” inscribed on its base was fashioned two months ago.
“We knew what went on at Abu Ghraib,” Abdul-Kareem Khalil, the artist, said on Saturday. “The pictures did not surprise me.”
Antony Loewenstein recommendsMedia matters, which monitors the right wing media. See White House refuses to repudiate controversial Limbaugh remarks for its refusal to disavow the comment of the Bush administration�s favourite shock jock Rush Limbaugh, who makes Alan Jones sound like a bleeding heart. Rush said of the tortures:
CALLER: It was like a college fraternity prank that stacked up naked men –
LIMBAUGH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?
Makes you winder what the Administration is really sorry about, doesn�t it? The torture, or the fact that it got out? An excellent blog on US politics, talking points memo, is publishing good detail of the unfolding scandal. It published this, from �The Nelson Report�:
We can contribute a second hand anecdote to newspaper stories on rising concern, last year, from Secretary of State Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage about Administration attitudes and the risks they might entail: according to eye witnesses to debate at the highest levels of the Administration…the highest levels…whenever Powell or Armitage sought to question prisoner treatment issues, they were forced to endure what our source characterizes as “around the table, coarse, vulgar, frat-boy bully remarks about what these tough guys would do if THEY ever got their hands on prisoners….
Let’s be clear: our source is not alleging “orders” from the White House. Our source is pointing out that, as we said in the Summary, a fish rots from its head. The atmosphere created by Rumsfeld’s controversial decisions was apparently aided and abetted by his colleagues in their callous disregard for the implications of the then-developing situation, and by their ridicule of the only combat veterans at the top of this Administration.
Another good blog to follow the story through American eyes is Kevin Drum�s washingtonmonthlyblog. Kevin cites prior warnings of prisoner abuse to the Bush Administration by former US weapons inspector David Kay and Paul Bremer, to no avail.
We now know the Red Cross warned the Yanks about systemic prisoner abuse in Iraq a year ago (see Red Cross report describes systematic U.S. abuse in Iraq and Jailed Iraqis hidden from Red Cross, says US army:
US military policemen moved unregistered Iraqi prisoners, known as “ghost detainees”, around an army-run jail at Abu Ghraib, in order to hide them from the Red Cross, according to a confidential military report.
The report on abuses at Abu Ghraib prison – a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian – described the practice of hiding prisoners as “deceptive, contrary to army doctrine, and in violation of international law”.
Last night on Lateline, Geoffrey Robertson QC said he would expect Australia to have got a copy, as we are also obliged to respect the Geneva Conventions as an occupying power. Did we get it? If not, why not? When did Howard and Downer know this was going on, and did they protest to the Americans? When is the Australia media going to get stuck into this story on the home front????
Over to you.
Some years back I did a prep course to enter Sydney Uni in psychology, where we were shown a film on the Stanford Prison Experiment which got out of hand in 6 days and had to be closed down. With the recent events in Abu Ghraib jail, it stuck me that an almost identical situation occurred happened during this experiment. I have just gone through the site on the prison experiments and found this photo. The homepage is prisonexp
My son is two and a half. Due to his age and his developing language skills, sometimes, when frustrated or angry or both, he hits or throws things. I have been teaching him that in no circumstances do we hit, no matter how angry we get. It is okay to not like what someone is doing but we do not use violence, we use our words to sort it out.
My darling young child saw those photographs on the news and heard my gasp of horror. “What’s happened Mum” “Some people have hurt some other people” I told him. “They still learning not to hit Mum?” In the words of an innocent, shouldn’t they have learned this already? How can we expect children to believe violence is not okay, when those very people governing our nation obviously condone it. I’m not talking about the photos; I’m talking about being there in the first place. Shame on you Howard.
Sally McLaren in Kyoto, Japan
Even before I read Torture as pornography, I was thinking – why are we seeing so many images of Lynndie England and Sabrina Harman and why do we now know so much about them? The writer put it well why we shouldn’t be surprised about these images, and what they tell us about western society, torture and sexuality. However, she is talking about the images in general and what they mean.
I want to know – why are the same images of two female soldiers being used repeatedly by the media? What does this tell us about how the media are constructing the story?
The other degrading images of the Iraqi detainees show male soldiers either posing with the now infamous two female soldiers, or in groups. But we these men do not appear to be named in the published or broadcast images as often, if at all, as England and Harman are. These two faces are representing the disgrace of the US Army and they are female faces.
In patriarchal societies, and I don�t just mean Muslim or Middle Eastern ones, there couldn�t be a more inflammatory image � a female soldier humiliating male captives. I think it says on the most basic level � �look what women with power can do�.
These images are powerful and like disturbing and violent images from other conflicts they will remain with us for a very long time.
A bunch of my friends suggested that I read the Taguba report and do a summary, since I�ve nagged them about needing to be aware of what was going on. I am horrified beyond words, and I just want to go home and have many, many gins and get it all out of my head.
It’s full of military abbreviations, and the first few pages are hard going because of it, but around page 15/16 and 18/19, there are quotes from witness statements and from the American suspects. One particularly horrifying thing is that several suspect reservists – although since basing their defence on the line that they were ordered to do these things by military intelligence (who are described as actually being present at one of the interrogations) – claim that they can’t remember who exactly from MI gave them the explicit order.
The report finds that the military police in charge of Abu Ghraib were given no training or instruction on the applicable rules of the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war. And no copies of the Geneva convention were available to either MP personnel or detainees. In fact, if the excerpts of MP statements I read were anything to go by, the MP would have barely been capable of reading it, let alone understanding it. As for the detainees, I hardly think it would have OCCURRED to the MI or MP that they should provide a copy of the convention in Arabic.
But the most disturbing aspect of the report by far is the suggestion that several mini-investigations were conducted into complaints of abuse within the compound, and although court martial was recommended, there is no evidence that Brigadier Karpinksi ever reminded MP soldiers of the conventions regarding detainee treatment or took any steps to ensure that the abuse was not repeated. THE ABUSE WAS TACITLY APPROVED, EVEN AFTER THE DIRECT COMMANDER OF THE SOLDIERS INVOLVED AND THE BRIGADIER HE REPORTED TO WERE WELL AWARE OF WHAT WAS GOING ON.
The most concrete recommendations are that 1) a “multi-discipline mobile training team” is sent to conduct short training courses for the MP on the relevant Geneva Conventions; and 2) that a single commanding officer be responsible for overall detainee operations throughout the “Iraq theatre of operations”.
The running of several detention facilities, but particularily Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca are described as inconsistent from detention facility to detention facility, from compound to compound, from encampment to encampment, and even from shift to shift. NO MENTION IS MADE OF THE FACT THAT THESE ARE RESERVISTS, NOT CAREER SOLDIERS!
The whole NDRS (the US system for registering and recording the arrival, processing and transfer of detainees) is fucked. Often detainees are not listed until 4 days after their arrival. Transfers are omitted – on a massive scale. Both Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca are well and truly over their maximum capacity.
In November 03 the detainees of an entire encampment of Abu Ghraib rioted in protest of their living conditions. The MP battalion attempted something called “Golden spike” – a containment plan (which according to the times listed cannot have gone for that long). When this failed, the use of deadly force was authorised. Twelve detainees were shot – of these, 3 shot dead. This is only one of a lengthy list of escapes. In more than once case, the escape attempts
In one case, 5 detainees were wounded (June 03) during a riot. The riot was said to have been sparked by one of the detainnee’s being subdued by the MP’s after striking one of them. Once the detainee was subdued, a MP took off his shirt and paraded himself in front of the detainees, which further escalated the riot. The guards fired live rounds into the crowd.
The reasons given for these incidents are listed as poor lighting around the compound, overcrowding, poor communication amongst guards and MPs, no clear chain of command between guards and MPs, facility-obstructed view of posted guards, outdated and inadequate emergency procedures, lack of comprehensive training of guards, no formal guard-mount conducted prior to shift, no rehearsals or ongoing training, rules of engagement, unclear lines of responsibility, and ambiguous relationship between the MI and MP, complacency, and lack of leadership presence.
The investigation pointed out that rules and guidelines were not posted in the camps in the detainee’s native languages.
And I’m only halfway through the report. Dear God.
I read Cameron Jackson’s comments in The Human Spirit one year after war on Iraq with interest and foreboding. I tried to access the site he mentioned (http://www.albasrah.net/images/iraqi-pow/iraqi-pow) and was likewise unable to get through.
My first thought was admittedly Orwellian but then I found the site’s homepage, albasrah. The photos of the carnage in Fallujah are shocking, more shocking for me than the torture images, which I found disturbing and sad but unsurprising.
Partly the shock comes from the fact that no amount of looking at pictures of mutilated children can inure a normal person to it; but mostly it comes from the absence of these proofs of our atrocities in our media. The torture images shocked because they were images, because they gave flesh to our nightmares. They were impervious to interpretation and spin. Written and oral allegations of abuse had been ignored for months. In a landscape if lies, the photos at least were true.
And that truth, having broken out of the apparatus of news control via the courage of whistleblowers, permitted long dormant American consciences to thaw, as your citation of the piece ‘Lew Rockwell’ site points out:
And now, taking everyone by surprise, a relatively insignificant element in the myriad of blunders that the invasion has visited on that unhappy desert land has brought the entire imperial enterprise in Iraq to teeter on the brink. Corruption, slaughter, and deception all failed to ignite the American domestic imagination. But the revelation that a few Iraqi prisoners might have been tortured by a few inexperienced noncoms from the Appalachian backwoods (where I live), has suddenly brought the careening imperial juggernaut of the world�s sole superpower to a screeching halt.
If the world’s media had front paged the images from Falluja the day after it happened, and emphasised the appalling ratio of US revenge, then the reaction would have rivaled, perhaps even surpassed that afforded the torture pics. They too may have ignited ‘the American domestic imagination’ (and the Australian one too) something this administration, even more than most, has tried desperately to avoid.
It is his responsibility for this ignition that has Donald Rumsfeld on the ropes, far more than any responsibility for the actual crimes.
If the world’s media had front paged the images from Falluja the day after it happened, and emphasised the appalling ratio of US revenge, then the reaction would have rivaled, perhaps even surpassed that afforded the torture pics.
They too may have ignited ‘the American domestic imagination’ (and the Australian one too) something this administration, even more than most, has tried desperately to avoid. It is his responsibility for this ignition that has Donald Rumsfeld on the ropes, far more than any responsibility for the actual crimes.
The regular publication of photos like these would provide a reminder of what we are a party to, of what sticking around to ‘finish the job’ might mean, and a graphic illustration of what feeds the terrorist imagination.
David Mieluk in Terrigal, NSW tunes into the overhanging issue in Iraq � OIL
I have stumbled upon an argument that has questioned my whole outlook on the war in Iraq, the politics of oil, and the U.S. government policy of hegemony.
A number of commentators on the internet are presenting evidence that the global ability to produce oil will soon fall beneath the global demand. That is, whilst historically, when demand for oil rose it was possible that increases in world oil production could satiate that demand, this may soon not be possible. The consequences would be a rapid, continuous, and sizable escalation of oil prices in the short and long term. A rapid escalation of the price of oil has the potential to catastrophically affect world trade, and if the argument presented, the likelihood is a devastating decrease in standard of living for the entire world population.
One very readable summary of this argument (though four years old) is worldoil and gas. See alsohubbertpeak, peakoil and lifeaftertheoilcrash. (Margo: And see economist Paul Krugman�s latest column, The oil crunch.)
I am not a �protesty� type of person. I consider myself to be extremely sceptical of arguments that might be considered �doomsday-ish�.
I write because I have been deeply affected by this argument. On the one hand, this is because I have been unable to flaw the reasoning presented in the argument. On the other hand, I am utterly flabbergasted that, if the argument is valid, I have not heard about it.
I do not understand why this situation is not the main current public debate. I am, perhaps, in my young years, poisoned by naivety into believing that if a truly devastating threat lurked on the horizon, politicians would cease playing politics and work together to find a solution. That appears not to have happened.
If this argument is accurate, then, dare I ask, how much do things like the ethics of Australian party politics and human rights abuses in Iraq really matter?
Margo: Webdiary discussed this argument at length before the war � it is partly why most people in Europe believe that Bush invaded Iraq for its oil. For example, see Controil. You�d think we�d be focusing on reducing or reliance on oil, wouldn�t you? Not a bar of it.
I was hoping that my next comments on this forum would be a retrospective, a ‘what if’ had Jeb and the chads had not seen an illegal occupation of the White House, and instead September 11 had occurred on Al Gore’s watch. The global outpouring of sincere support may have seen us still united behind the US, however, watching Paul Bremer join the growing list of ‘apologists’ for the recent disgusting photos to come from Iraq, I was again struck by the hollowness of the rhetoric. It got me thinking – what is the point of emotionally based language when emotion is no longer a part of leadership?
There have been many comprehensive articles written examining the ‘spin’ of our current crop, but why do we buy it? Why do we continually allow these blatant manipulations of language to enter our thought processes and ‘assist’ us in reaching ‘educated’ decisions? Apart from the fact that we have little choice currently, it has been a long process of doublespeak that has subconsciously trained many to either shut it out or try so hard to glean truth that it becomes a draining exercise in cynicism (at which time one can be easily dismissed as being far too cynical).
These days it is easier to switch to brain candy mode and see what our gardens and houses should be looking like this week, or staring at people we feel have less control over their lives as they compete with, then against, each other in a microcosm all to often designed (supposedly) to reflect the ‘real world’.
I know its a long bow to draw, but public/political life, the area in which people traditionally felt a nation is defined, directed and led, has become a vacuous spin hole, seemingly now all about political survival for the self absorbed individual and not anything to do with the above long held premise.
Therefore, people are (or were) flocking to reality genres in order to replace the distinct lack of leadership that defines our national values. If our leader won�t tell us or listen to us, at least Don Burke and Jamie Durie will give some direction to tide us over till next week. More broadly, reality TV shows are the pointy end of materialism replacing national identity as worn out people define themselves not in the collective Aussie vernacular of past identity, but by their couch or their BBQ or the label on the clothing. Everything else is just too removed from their daily existence.
Nobody really expects politicians to be absolutely free of moral quagmires – politics in the age of globalisation is a vicious game. But at least traditional battles were fought with some sense of moral rightness, therefore the language that stemmed from that essential human belief echoed the emotional sentiments of a person caught up in a difficult process.
We cannot blame spin on this outbreak of war in Iraq. What we can say is that spin has been creeping into every facet of interaction in our lives, personal and political, so that when the spin meter is severely cranked up such as the current case, we yawn and distrust what we are hearing (unless it is about a nice new cafe or product).
War is peace love is hate blah blah blah. It is a bit like that old anecdote about frogs and boiling water, you put a frog into a pot of cold water and slowly boil it, the frog will happily swim about until its environment is toxic to its existence and it dies unaware. Chuck the frog into hot water and it jumps straight back out again unscathed.
We are the frogs, the cold water is the government spin. Our death will be the failure of democratic principles, so spun they (and we) don�t know what they stand for, or who they really should be, leading to a crisis of confidence.
On the current disgusting crisis and the empty language of absent morality, we all now now that the reason for this invasion was not WMDs or terrorism (as Gore Vidal said, how do you declare war on a noun?), not the desire to impart democracy in any real way, not even regime change -except to install a regime nicer to the US.
The most likely reason is to get a strategic position in the Middle East through which to protect the Saudis and Israel, and to prepare for the peak oil crisis that may have already begun. It is also about protecting the outflow of oil being traded in Euros. Perhaps this is a reason why France and Germany were not forthcoming – hardly a humanitarian reason, but what spin did they employ? Humanitarian of course.
Very few in the Western world would regard this these reasons as just, therefore an incredible amount of spin is required. The only way to sell an unjust, sinister war is to telllie upon lie upon lie until the truth is just one more subjective take on events and it too can be clouded by spin – “With us or against us” “Un Australian” “Questioning the war is not supporting the individual on the ground” etc. All these statements force an opposing view to begin from a basis of unpatriotic, treasonous thought processes, thus weakening any cohesive argument put thereafter.
“Yes sir, you might be right but we are there now so there is no point arguing anymore, don�t you want the US to win?� or “We must stay until the job is done”.
By the time we wade through half truths, half facts, internal investigations and half apologies, we have forgotten what all the fussin, feudin and a fightin was about. Or as Homer put it “Before, before! Quit livin in the past Marge”.
In the past, the buck stopped here. Now the world�s most powerful man sees the worlds most powerful army committing terrible acts on 60 Minutes!! C’mon now, really? If that is true, it is appalling, if it is false, it is equally appalling, but in the meantime the finger pointing continues until a good news story rings the Pavlovian bell and the game begins again.
Our leader blames everyone but himself every time. I was not told, I did not know, on and on. And what happens when he finds out? Prevarication to the point that people forget what was going on, realise a dead horse can only be flogged so much, or something else happens – like Ian Thorpe falls into the pool.
Just recapping, spin is in, truth is subjective, reasons for conflict were hidden, reasons given for the conflict were largely ‘humanitarian’ as we were ‘liberating’ Iraqi’s from tyranny. But, as Margo mentioned on Sunday, the only protection afforded in Baghdad was for the Oil Ministry, and undeniably, atrocities are occurring. It is not, I expect, a truly apologetic nation we are now seeing, but a red faced petulant child caught with its hand firmly in the cookie jar. Of course they are sorry, sorry they were busted.
Many opposed to the war were aware of the potential threat of words and actions not matching, and many knew the humanitarian arguments were false. If the Iraqis knew months ago what was happening how can G W Bush not know? My feeling, he did. Further, he is not sorry. Were those that took part in the crusades apologetic for the barbaric conduct in the name of God? No, they believed they were right. Again we have a geo-political situation whereby ideologies are the sock puppets, while under the surface the power brokers get what they came for, oil…power…control.
Herein lies the dilemma. The ideologies have now been unarguably stripped back to reveal the true intention of the power brokers. Unlike any other war, these power brokers are also responsible for perpetuating the myth.
Frighteningly, they are the government! They do not ‘know’ the government, they are it. They peddled one story while acting out another. This time however, the images are too graphic, too cut and dried, too obviously illegal. What has been the response? Some ‘sorries’ mixed in with a further politicisation and filibustering. Some buck passing to the lowest level of authority in Iraq (the soldiers, who get what they deserve), Rummy running out of patience with questioning of his methods and a President going on Arab TV and not saying sorry!
He did eventually but it isn�t washing. No one is buying it. The lead up to these acts has pared back the authority or legitimacy of words, because the acts themselves contravene everything asserted. The lewdness and vulgarity jar the senses, the fact that these methods are thought up by those who purport to believe in democratic principle are shocking and sickeningly awe inspiring in their degrading intent. The repulsion is deeper than political or religious divides now, and a comment from the Iraqi governing council that all prisoners should be released as a show of good faith (not forgetting that many are held without charge) was met with a big fat no.
They did apologise again though, but what�s the point? Paul Bremer may well have come out and said he was a chicken and his favorite past time was taxidermy, George Bush may as well have ignored the issue, or red-necked it up to incite further voter parochialism. What difference do words now make, when the globe has witnessed an illegal conquest so askew with purported truths that no one could believe any word spoken by those at the helm any longer.
PS: I thought recently that Latham�s call to remove troops came after a briefing with Intelligence Agencies and was driven by a fact or facts he was told but could not repeat. There would be nothing to gain in Australia’s opposition exposing these crimes, but plenty for an opposition if they were made public eventually. Do you think maybe that Latham knew or was told what was happening and decided to base his policy on that, while waiting for the public to catch up when the truth comes out as it has now?