RE: Creative cruelty and responsibility: Photos from Iraq

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Tue May 04 2004 - 00:32:55 PDT

Here is the beginning text and the url to a New Yorker Magazine article on
the Iraq photos we have been talking about.
- Steve

New Yorker Magazine, issue 05/10/2004
American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far up does the responsibility go?

In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was
one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions,
and vile living conditions. As many as fifty thousand men and women­no
accurate count is possible­were jammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, in
twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more than human holding pits.

In the looting that followed the regime’s collapse, last April, the huge
prison complex, by then deserted, was stripped of everything that could be
removed, including doors, windows, and bricks. The coalition authorities
had the floors tiled, cells cleaned and repaired, and toilets, showers, and
a new medical center added. Abu Ghraib was now a U.S. military prison. Most
of the prisoners, however­by the fall there were several thousand,
including women and teen-agers­were civilians, many of whom had been picked
up in random military sweeps and at highway checkpoints. They fell into
three loosely defined categories: common criminals; security detainees
suspected of “crimes against the coalition”; and a small number of
suspected “high-value” leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.

Last June, Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve brigadier general, was named
commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and put in charge of
military prisons in Iraq. General Karpinski, the only female commander in
the war zone, was an experienced operations and intelligence officer who
had served with the Special Forces and in the 1991 Gulf War, but she had
never run a prison system. Now she was in charge of three large jails,
eight battalions, and thirty-four hundred Army reservists, most of whom,
like her, had no training in handling prisoners.

General Karpinski, who had wanted to be a soldier since she was five, is a
business consultant in civilian life, and was enthusiastic about her new
job. In an interview last December with the St. Petersburg Times, she said
that, for many of the Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib, “living conditions now
are better in prison than at home. At one point we were concerned that they
wouldn’t want to leave.”

A month later, General Karpinski was formally admonished and quietly
suspended, and a major investigation into the Army’s prison system,
authorized by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior commander
in Iraq, was under way. A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New
Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public
release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the
institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating.
Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there
were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses”
at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba
reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company,
and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was
attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade
headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:

"Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;
pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom
handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a
military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured
after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee
with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working
dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in
one instance actually biting a detainee."


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