Good news and bad news over Iraqi prisoner abuse

By Sinclere Lee

In the midst of the horrible prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, there appears to be some good news among all the bad news. First, the bad new; the whole wide world has come out in condemnation against our country over the abuse American soldiers have caused against the Iraqi people, and it's a shame the way America is treating the poor Iraqi people, to this very day.

Now, for the good news; the way these white folks are kicking Black men asses in these prisons in this country, I say, it's better them Iraqis than us! Yeah, it's time for somebody else to start taking these ass kicking from the white man in America.

Black men have been the victims of these people in America for over three hundred years, and it's high time for somebody, anybody else to start taking these body blows from the white man. Why always the Black man in America?

The fallout from photographs showing Iraqi prisoners being degraded and humiliated at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison included finger-pointing, denials of responsibility and the formal reprimand of six American soldiers last week.

If they are doing the Iraqi people like that in their own country, what the hell you think they are doing to Black men in these prisons in this country? Why, they got their practice in kicking Iraqi asses by beating us up!

Senior Pentagon officials said at least two military investigations are looking at whether private contractors involved in the interrogation of the prisoners had a role in their alleged abuse.

The photographs showed naked Iraqi prisoners being forced to simulate sex acts and form human pyramids, as American troops watched. One also showed a cloaked prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his hands.

One of the prisoners shown in the photographs, Haydar Sabbar Ali, who has since been released, reporters that he was cursed at and beaten, and had his clothes cut off with a knife.

"We are Muslims. We don't go naked in front of our families. But there we were, naked in front of American women and men," he said, adding that this treatment went on for about four hours as punishment for beating a fellow prisoner suspected of spying for the Americans.

He also said guards "hit you hard in sensitive places, in the kidney, in the chest, in the throat."

"Our bodies were full of bruises. They didn't let us out of the cells until all our wounds had healed."

Military intelligence role questioned

President Bush called Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Monday morning to discuss the military's handling of the situation, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"The president wanted to make sure that appropriate action was being taken against those responsible for these shameful, appalling acts," McClellan said.

Meanwhile, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jane Harman of California, wrote a letter to Rumsfeld demanding a briefing on the role military intelligence officials may have played in the alleged abuse.

"The fog of war is thick, but these acts of abuse and humiliation contradict international norms, military regulations and the very values that our military fights to defend," Harman said in a statement.

A senior military official said Monday that six U.S. soldiers -- all officers or noncommissioned officers -- received reprimands on the orders of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, after separate criminal and administration investigations into the alleged abuse.

Six other soldiers, who are members of the military police, face criminal charges, and other soldiers have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigations, the official said.

Sanchez has also opened an investigation into the role that military intelligence may have played in the alleged abuse, according to Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition military spokesman in Baghdad.

'There was no accountability'

Journalist Seymour Hersh, who reported on the mistreatment allegations in The New Yorker magazine, said military police at the prison were acting at the direction of U.S. military intelligence "to break down somebody before interrogation." He based his conclusions on a classified report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who directed the investigation that led to criminal charges against the soldiers.

"Interrogation became the mantra, the thing that was essential, and that was not run by the people of the military police running the prisons," Hersh said.

That characterization was backed up by the former commander of military police at U.S. prisons in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who said MPs were being given instructions by military intelligence.

"I don't know how they allowed these activities to get so far out of control, but I do know with absolute confidence that they didn't just wake up one day and decide to do this," she told reporters.

Karpinski, an Army reserve officer who has since rotated out of Iraq, was admonished before the investigation got under way, her attorney said.

"I certainly take responsibility for some of this, because those soldiers were assigned to a company under my command," she said. "I don't think the blame rests with me. In fact, it's unfair because we had 3,400 soldiers, and this was the only facility where interrogations were taking place, and this was the only facility with infractions."

But Kimmitt said that military intelligence was not responsible for "individual acts of criminal behavior" by MPs, which he termed "absolutely horrible, absolutely inexcusable."

"They made the choice to do that, and now they seem to be concerned about being caught," he said. "Those soldiers you see in the pictures let us down."

However, Kimmitt said Karpinski was "exactly right" that there are "concerns with military intelligence," which is what prompted Sanchez to open a third investigation.

"The first investigation, a criminal investigation from the Criminal Investigation Division, went after the individual conduct of the soldiers you see in those photographs," Kimmitt said. "The second investigation, an administrative investigation, looked into command policies and procedures, and from that there appeared to be issues with military intelligence as well."

In her letter to Rumsfeld, Harman requested a copy of Taguba's report on the criminal probe, which she complained was not given to anyone on her committee, even though it was completed in February.

"As of yesterday, the report was still 'working its way' up the chain of command to senior Pentagon leaders," Harman said in her statement. "This is highly disturbing and raises questions about how seriously the administration and the White House were taking these allegations."

Another charge made by Hersh -- that the CIA and private contractors were also involved in the questionable interrogations at Abu Ghraib -- was denied Monday by U.S. intelligence officials.

The officials said the CIA had nothing to do with the prisoners shown in the photographs, and they also said that private contractors cited by Hersh were actually hired by the military.

The Arlington, Virginia-based CACI International was one of the companies Hersh cited. It advertises for interrogators on its Web site.

Taguba's report said CACI employee Steven Stephanowicz ordered MPs "who were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by 'setting conditions' which were neither authorized" nor in keeping with Army regulations, according to Hersh's article.

Legal experts say private contractors are subject to international law. But former CIA officer Robert Baer insists contractors fall into a legal gray area.

"Well, there is no accountability, obviously. If it was private contractors, they don't fall under American law, they don't fall under Iraqi law," Baer said.

'Stupid, immoral and counterproductive'

A senior U.S. official called the humiliation of the Iraqi prisoners "stupid, immoral and counterproductive," noting that such techniques are more likely to get prisoners to say what their interrogators want to hear, rather than provide useful information.

It has been previously reported that the CIA's inspector general is investigating two unrelated cases of alleged abuse of prisoners in Iraq that may have involved CIA personnel, including one case in which a prisoner died.

Last year, the CIA station chief in Baghdad was replaced, but U.S. officials denied the move had to do with alleged mistreatment of prisoners.

"Baghdad needed a more seasoned chief" because of the growing size and complexity of CIA operations there, an official said. However, according to sources, the former station chief was also criticized for allowing prisoners to be transferred without military escorts, in violation of CIA policy.

The photographs, shown around the world, have cast a negative light on American soldiers at a time when Iraqis are expressing increasing frustration with the U.S. occupation. Kimmitt acknowledged that soldiers serving in Iraq now have a tough task before them: convincing Iraqis that the photographs do not represent the typical GI.

"We need as Americans to be a bright, shining light for the treatment of prisoners," he said. "Otherwise, we have no right to ask that of our adversaries."

According to the Pentagon, about 10,000 Iraqi prisoners are being held by the United States at six major prison camps around the country, including Abu Ghraib.

Back to home page