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Medics Involved In Torture At Abu Ghraib


When the findings of the latest US Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib torture scandal are reported to Congress next week, no one of higher rank than colonel is expected to be named as directly responsible for the systemic abuses uncovered in the prison just outside Baghdad.

Meanwhile, according to charges made by an ethicist in a major medical journal, military physicians and medics in Iraq have been complicit or actively engaged in some of the worst known incidents of cruelty, torture and murder.

Naming Names, Placing Blame

According to the Washington Post, “senior defense officials speaking on condition of anonymity” said the latest Abu Ghraib report, which is supposed to reach Congress early next week, will spread blame throughout the ranks and will include five corporate mercenaries who presumably worked as interrogators at the prison.

However, CNN’s “military sources” said the report will name no one ranked higher than Colonel Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, as being directly responsible for abuses related to interrogations or prison conditions.

In all, various sources report that just 24 lower-ranked soldiers and civilians will be implicated in the report as having actively engaged in “abuse” of prisoners. The document has been dubbed the “Fay Report” after lead investigator Major General George R. Fay.

CNN’s sources suggest that Fay will only recommend action be taken against personnel actually found to have participated in abuse.

According to the Post, those names will be conveyed to the US Army’s Central Command, which may then decide to initiate criminal investigations, perhaps eventually issuing charges and possibly prosecuting those soldiers. Civilian prosecutors and courts could be given responsibility for pursuing charges against nonmilitary contractors implicated by Fay, the Post adds.

Top Warden Deflects Blame, Points to Reforms

In a separate Washington Post article on August 17, Major General Geoffery D. Miller, who ran the infamous detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and played an advisory role at Abu Ghraib last year, insisted it was a small number of troublemakers whose insubordination led to the outrageous instances of abuse which broke in the mainstream US media last spring.

After telling the Post that the rash of abuses resulted from “an enormous leadership failure,” Miller concluded, “As painful as this has been, we have corrected this, and we are now bringing those responsible to justice.”

But the Post reports Col. Pappas has said it was Miller himself who recommended one of the most widely condemned tactics: the use of unmuzzled dogs to intimidate naked prisoners. Miller denies having made the suggestion.

Gen. Miller is currently the top US military detentions official in Iraq, a role he assumed in March.

No officers have been criminally charged in any of the recorded incidents of torture, abuse, neglect or humiliation. Of the seven soldiers who have been charged, all are from the same military police reservists company, and the highest ranking troop is a staff sergeant.

To improve conditions at Abu Ghraib, Miller ordered the construction of shopping and dining facilities, recreation rooms and hot showers for the guards and other military personnel. For the prisoners, Miller told the Post, the building of a 52-bed field hospital and a small mental health ward are underway.

Ethicist Says Docs Condoned and Covered Up Torture

Writing in a British medical journal called The Lancet, physician and bioethicist Steven H. Miles called for an investigation into crimes he says numerous doctors and medics have committed against Iraqi detainees in US custody.

Citing military documents, eyewitness accounts and news reports, Miles says medical personnel were involved in a range of violations. Acts he condemns include falsification of death certificates, tampering with Iraqi corpses and in one instance, reviving a man brutalized into unconsciousness so that soldiers could resume a torture regime.

According to Miles’ report, on no occasion prior to the breaking of the Abu Ghraib scandal did American medical personnel report any cases of detainee abuse to military officials.

“The detaining power’s health personnel are the first and often the last line of defence against human rights abuses,” writes Miles. “Their failure to assume that role emphasizes to the prisoner how utterly beyond humane appeal they are.”

Last May, The NewStandard reported on a medical discharge document, signed by an American doctor, which numerous other physicians have claimed was clearly falsified. In it, Lt. Colonel Michael C. Hodges, MD, gave what civilian colleagues have called a “bizarre” account of the diagnosis and treatment of Sadiq Zoman, a 56 year-old husband and father of nine. Some doctors referred to the report as an “obvious cover-up” of the real causes of Zoman’s current condition, a “persistent vegetative state,” which mounting evidence suggests resulted from torture at the hands of his captors.

According to “military officials” who spoke to the Associated Press, the Fay Report will also include allegations that medical personnel were aware of abuses at Abu Ghraib but failed to report detainee mistreatment to commanders. The New York Times reports it has obtained military medical records proving that medics treated “suspicious wounds” in the very ward where most of the torture is thought to have taken place.

The Lancet piece follows on the heels of a less thorough condemnation that appeared last month in the New England Journal of Medicine. In that essay, Dr. Robert J. Lifton cited “increasing evidence” that American medical personnel in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay have also been complicit in detainee torture.

Miles’ article concluded: “Army investigations have looked at a small set of human rights abuses, but have not investigated reports from human rights organizations, nor have they focused on the role of medical personnel or examined detention centers that were not operated by the Army.… Reforms stemming from [a complete] inquiry could yet create a valuable legacy from the ruins of Abu Ghraib.”

Iraqis leaving Abu Ghraib have regularly insisted that torture and mistreatment continue inside the prison walls to this day.

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