Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, one of Saddam Hussein's favored locales for the beating and torturing of prisoners, now has become the site of allegations of abuse by American servicemen and women towards Iraqi detainees. The irony, while not intended, is striking.

The story seems to grow deeper and more disturbing every day. The pictures more graphic, the lack of answers about who was in charge, more appalling. Heads are going to, or at least should, roll, court martials of those involved, will be inevitable. Denials and finger pointing are sure to be the next ugly step. The Army will blame the intelligence community and the intelligence community will either go into hiding or start placing the blame somewhere else. Either way, it makes me sad to see that people, not only Americans, feel the need to act this way.

Here are some excerpts from MSNBC of the findings by one Major General Antonio M. Taguba about the alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force (372nd Military Police Company, 320thMilitary Police Battalion, 800th MP Brigade), in Tier (section) 1-A of the Abu Ghraib Prison (BCCF).

In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses.
  • a. Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;
  • b. Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;
  • c. Pouring cold water on naked detainees;
  • d. Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;
  • e. Threatening male detainees with rape;
  • f. Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell;
  • g. Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.
  • h. Using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

The intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

  • a. Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;
  • b. Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;
  • c. Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;
  • d. Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;
  • e. Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;
  • f. Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;
  • g. Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;
  • h. Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;
  • i. Writing “I am a Rapist” on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;
  • j. Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;
  • k. A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;
  • l. Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;
  • m.Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.

These findings are amply supported by written confessions provided by several of the suspects, written statements provided by detainees, and witness statements.

The various detention facilities operated by the 800th MP Brigade have routinely held persons brought to them by Other Government Agencies (OGAs) without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention. The Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib called these detainees “ghost detainees.” On at least one occasion, the 320th MP Battalion at Abu Ghraib held a handful of “ghost detainees” (6-8) for OGAs that they moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey team. This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law.

"I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

Those are the words of the Vice President of the United States of America - Dick Cheney spoken on March 16, 2003 to Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press. While I'm sure Mr. Cheney couldn't have foreseen the events that are unfolding, the latest estimates by pundits and the like are that these actions by a few misdirected individuals will set back Arab - American relations for many years to come. Some say 20, some say 30. Either way, its too long.

Editorial Comment:

The other day, I was listening to NPR’ s Daniel Schorr compare the recent allegations of Iraqi detainee abuse with the days of Vietnam and the My Lai Massacre. Truth be told, even though I’m as just about as liberal as they come, I thought the comparisons were a bit overboard. While I don’t think there’s a liberal bias to the news, I do think that comparisons made by either liberals or conservatives tend to the extremes rather than the reality. And although I wish we could get the Vietnam monkey off our back, as long as events such as the alleged abuse continue to take place, the comparisons seem inevitable.

Incidents such as this alleged abuse also demean the efforts of those soldiers who are risking their lives on a daily basis, not to mention those who have already died, and, those who are going to die. It leaves an even more sour taste in the mouths of those who believe we shouldn’t be there in the first place, whether they be citizens of the United States, Iraq, or any other civilized person or nation. These acts do nothing but discredit our intentions and our place in the eyes of the world. Of even greater importance, they serve to inflame the Iraqi and Arab populace and place our troops on the ground in an even greater danger.

While I’m ashamed at the actions of the few, I hope they don't go on to discredit the actions of the many. That's at least one of the lessons we should have learned a long, long time ago.

5/6/04- Final thoughts - I was watching the news this morning and even more graphic and disturbing pictures are being released. It makes me wonder about the Americans in those photo's. In particular, there's one of a young woman who seems to be taking a certain joy in demeaning those under her charge. I wonder how proud she'll feel of herself in the coming years when she tries to explain her actions to her family, friends, children and possibly grandchildren. That's something we should all take heed of.