Friday, March 10, 2006

Closing Abu Ghraib

The US has announced that they will be closing Abu Ghraib. Quite apart from the fact that this is the third time they've made such an announcement, reading the story shows that the headline is simply false. They won't be closing Abu Ghraib - they'll be vacating it and turning it over to Iraqi forces. And the prisoners there - a large number of whom are innocent people rounded up as terrorism suspects and left to rot for months - won't be released; they'll be transferred to a new prison at Camp Cropper. Some may remember this as the site used to hold Saddam Hussein, as well as several CIA "ghost detainees"; it was also mentioned in a 2004 Red Cross report on the treatment by the Coalition Forces of Prisoners of War and other Protected Persons by the Geneva Conventions in Iraq during arrest, internment and interrogation as being used to hold detainees in long-term isolation, in violation of the Geneva Conventions. And then there's this:

In early July [2003 - I/S] the ICRC sent the CF a working paper detailing approximately 50 allegations of ill-treatment in the military intelligence section of Camp Cropper, at Baghdad International Airport. They included a combination of petty and deliberate acts of violence aimed at securing the cooperation of the persons deprived of their liberty with their interrogators: threats (to intern individuals indefinitely, to arrest other family members, to transfer individuals to Guantanamo) against persons deprived of their liberty or against members of their families (in particular wives and daughters); hooding; tight handcuffing; use of stress positions (kneeling, squatting, standing with arms raised over the head) for three or four hours; taking aim at individuals with rifles, striking them with rifle butts, slaps, punches, prolonged exposure to the sun, and isolation in dark cells. ICRC delegates witnessed marks on the bodies of several persons deprived of their liberty consistent with the allegations. In one illustrative case, a person deprived of his liberty arrested at home by the CF on suspicion of involvement in an attack against the CF, was allegedly beaten during interrogation in a location in the vicinity of Camp Cropper. He alleged that he had been hooded and cuffed with flexi-cuffs, threatened to be tortured or killed, urinated on, kicked in the head, lower back and groin, force-fed a baseball which was tied into the mouth using a scarf and deprived of sleep for four consecutive days. Interrogators would allegedly take turns ill-treating him. When he said he would complain to the ICRC he was allegedly beaten more. An ICRC medical examination revealed haematoma in the lower back, blood in urine, sensory loss in the right hand due to tight handcuffing with flexi-cuffs, and a broken rib.

Naturally, no-one has been charged for these abuses.

The problem isn't Abu Ghraib, and it won't be solved by closing that festering monument to torture. It's everywhere. It's at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram, the "salt pit", Camp Cropper, Camp Bucca, the "black sites" in Eastern Europe, the floating prisons, and America's new facility in Morocco. The problem is a sick culture in the minds of America's policymakers, interrogators, and soldiers, which sees torture and sadism and abuse as acceptable. And no-one is doing anything about that.


Another problem is that there is
widespread tacit approval of torture, as a means to a virtuous end,
among Americans (although by no means limited to the US). This issue
was aired in a controversial
episode of the US legal drama series
Boston Legal which I caught recently on TV3. Americans are used to
seeing their TV and movie heroes use deliberate acts of violence aimed at securing the cooperation of the bad guys and their associates. Hey, if the kid gets rescued and the crim' gets life then who cares if a few bones are broken along the way?

This attitude must make people ambivalent, at the very least, when evaluating their government's support of torture in places like Abu Graib and Guantanamo. After all, those guys are terrorists aren't they!

Posted by Jarvis Pink : 3/11/2006 11:11:00 AM