Inside The Cells Of Abu Ghraib




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video and digital cameras.  If not for the availability of
these electronic devices, it is possible the world would have never
viewed—to its collective disgust—the images of the hideous
events that took place in the murky depths of the Abu Ghraib military
prison. It’s safe to say U.S. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski—who
commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade in Baghdad and will
likely be held responsible for what happened inside Abu Ghraib—regrets
such devices ever existed. 


It
is not just the proliferation of cheap electronic cameras that revealed
how U.S. military and intelligence officers and agents work over
detainees, but a secret U.S. Army internal investigation report
leaked to the

New Yorker,

and handed over to investigative
journalist Seymour Hersh, played an important role as well. According
to the author of the report, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, reservist
military police at Abu Ghraib were instructed by Army military officers
and the CIA to “set physical and mental conditions for favorable
interrogation of witnesses”—in other words they were to
be tortured until they were reduced to well- disposed porridge. 


As
we now understand, it was not only the military and the CIA involved
in the torture at Abu Ghraib—so-called interrogation specialists
from private defense contractors were hired to humiliate and break
detainees identified by Hersh as common criminals, security detainees
suspected of crimes against the occupation and a small number of
suspected high-value leaders of the resistance against the occupation. 


Following
Hersh’s explosive revelations, the London

Guardian

filled
in conspicuous gaps and reported that companies contracted at Abu
Ghraib included CACI International and the Titan Corporation. CACI’s
website claims its mission is to “help America’s intelligence
community collect, analyze and share global information in the war
on terrorism.” Titan describes itself as “a leading provider
of comprehensive information and communications products, solutions
and services for national security.” 


As
Julian Borger of the

Guardian

points out, the military and
the CIA may be using private “security” and “national
security” corporations because they are not under military
jurisdiction. “One civilian contractor was accused of raping
a young male prisoner but has not been charged because military
law has no jurisdiction over him,” writes Borger. 


In
fact, the CIA has used torture by proxy for decades. Consider, as
an example, the CIA’s activities in Guatemala. “In March
1995, it was revealed that CIA Guatemalan assets were involved in
the murders of U.S. citizen Michael Devine and Efrain Bamaca Velasquez,
a guerrilla leader married to an American woman, Jennifer Harbury,”
writes Jon Elliston. Harbury and Sister Diana Ortiz—a U.S.
nun kidnapped, raped, and tortured by Guatemalan security forces
in 1989—managed to gain Clinton White House assurances that
the CIA’s involvement in Guatemala would be made public. 


But
as investigative journalist Allan Nairn discovered, the CIA had
“systematic links to Guatemalan Army death squad operations
that go far beyond the disclosures” made public by the Clinton
administration. Nairn interviewed former officials from the United
States and Guatemala who revealed that, “CIA operatives work
inside a Guatemalan Army unit that maintains a network of torture
centers and has killed thousands of Guatemalan civilians.” 


A
former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency official in Guatemala told
Nairn the involvement was so extensive, “It would be an embarrassing
situation if you ever had a roll call of everybody in the Guatemalan
Army who ever collected a CIA paycheck.” 


In
June 1995,

Baltimore Sun

reporters Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson
revealed the CIA’s close involvement with a Honduran military
intelligence unit, Battalion 316. As Cohn and Thompson reported,
the CIA worked with Argentine military experts that had a decade
of experience torturing and killing dissidents. The CIA and Argentine
thugs instructed and guided Battalion 316 in surveillance and interrogation
in much the same way the CIA and the Pentagon’s MI apparently
instructed “contractors” from CACI International and the
Titan Corporation at Abu Ghraib in the torture of unfortunate Iraqis. 


In
addition to Honduras and Guatemala, the CIA has instructed torturers
and assisted in overthrowing governments in Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay,
Greece, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, El Salvador, Brazil,
Ecuador, Congo, Haiti, Laos, Iran, and elsewhere. Nor- iega, Galtieri,
Pinochet, Rodriguez, Fujimori, and Alvarado—these are but a
few of the murderous dictators tutored by the CIA. Both the Taliban
and al-Qaeda are creations of the CIA. 


According
to the Association for Responsible Dissent, by 1987 six million
people had died as a result of CIA covert operations. William Blum,
a former State Department official and historian, terms this an
“American Holocaust.” 


Bush
“plans to ‘unleash’ the CIA to perpetrate political
assassinations, torture and a string of human rights violations,”
writes Raymond Ker of

Middle East News

, “…‘physical
interrogation’ [read: torture] is recommended by the venerable

Newsweek

magazine; and George W. Bush orders the institution
of military tribunals for suspected terrorists in camera and without
a jury.” 


It
appears this is what happened at Abu Ghraib—the CIA and military
intelligence were “unleashed” on those in the Iraq resistance
(or suspected of being associated with the Iraqi resistance). 


September
11 provided the CIA with a custom-made excuse to continue its gratuitous
use of torture, either directly or through proxy. After the Senate
Intelligence Committee conducted hearings on terrorism in December
2002, several CIA officers told Alasdair Palmer of the UK

Telegraph

,
“They were in no doubt about what they would have to do: they
would have to torture people…. The unanimity in American law-enforcement
circles is striking. Torture is no longer simply a topic for debate.
The debate has been won.” 


At
the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan, this debate is ancient
history—and there is absolutely no worry about human rights
or the Geneva Convention as it pertains to prisoners of war. As
the

Washington Post

reported in December 2002, the CIA routinely
tortured al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects at Bagram—interrogations
resulting in at least two deaths. 


Cofer
Black, former director of the CIA’s counter-terrorist branch,
told a congressional intelligence committee at the time: “All
you need to know: there was a before 9/11 and there was an after
9/11…. After 9/11 the gloves come off.” 


According
to U.S. officials responsible for capturing and detaining terrorist
suspects, the only problem with torture is that the CIA was prevented
from using it by fence-straddling lawmakers and a public without
stomach. “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights
some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job,”
an official told the

Washington Post



Late
last year the Sunday

Times

reported the CIA was actively
recruiting former agents from Saddam Hussein’s notorious security
force, Mukhabarat. Mohammed Abdullah, who had spent 10 years in
the Mukhabarat and eight in Iraqi military intelligence, told the

Times

he was on the CIA’s payroll—hired to hunt
down members of the resistance as well as Iraqis allegedly spying
for Iran and Syria. “If successfully set up, the group would
work in tandem with American forces but would have its own structure
and relative independence,” an anonymous intelligence officer
told the

Times

. “It could be expected to be fairly ruthless
in dealing with the remnants of Saddam.” It does not seem to
matter to the CIA or Bush, however, that many former members of
Mukhabarat are still Saddam loyalists. 


Considering
the above, a pattern begins to emerge: the CIA runs the counterinsurgency
effort in Iraq, from directing Mukhabarat in the field—rounding
up resistance fighters and their supporters—to overseeing the
operations of mercenaries (many recruited from Chilean and South
African military services) and directing “interrogations”
conducted by private companies such as CACI International, the Titan
Corporation, and defense contractors. 


Although
individual soldiers are under investigation for abusing Iraqi detainees—and
Hersh names them in his article—there is no mention of the
CIA, military intelligence, or private corporations (this information
was provided by Jullian Borger of the London

Guardian

). As
usual in such situations, lowly scapegoats will be sacrificed—careers
ruined, pensions lost—and the real culprits will fade into
the background, allowed to continue their repulsive work.

 


On
Sunday, May 2, Fox News and CNN were strangely mute about the scandal,
although the European and Arab press continued to publish accounts
of the torture. Of course, considering another CIA Operation (innocuously
dubbed Operation Mockingbird), this should be expected. In the late
1940s, the CIA recruited U.S. news organizations and individual
journalists as disseminators of CIA propaganda. All told, at least
25 news organizations and 400 journalists became helpmates for the
mega-snoop organization. 


Of
course, for Iraqis finding such behavior deeply offensive—especially
the pornographic aspects at odds with Arab culture—the wholesale
depravity of Abu Ghraib will serve as yet more inspiration to resist
the occupation and eventually get rid of Bush, the CIA, and their
hired sadists. Fox News and CNN may choose to allow Abu Ghraib to
drop from the media radar screen and may move on to more superficial
and politically disengaged news items, but in the Arab world the
damage has been done and it has momentous consequences. 


On
the day the U.S. leaves Iraq in disgrace, not even Fox News will
be able to ignore helicopters departing from the roof of the U.S.
embassy in Baghdad.



 





Kurt Nimmo is
a photographer and multimedia developer. He is a contributor to



The
Politics of Anti-Semitism



and his essay collection,





Another Day in the Empire,



is available from Dandelion
Books.