Have You Seen This Horror?

This story, the revelation of a U.S. Army report about the U.S. detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan by the New York Times, dated 20 May 2005, confirms our worst fears about the truth of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and, no doubt, many other American interrogation places. (Story Abstract)

(Added later: New York Times, January 8, 2006 - "Case Dropped Against U.S. Officer in Beating Deaths of Afghan Inmates" By Tim Golden. Charges are dropped against the Company Commander, a Captain. One Private First Class and one Sergeant are the only ones who will be court martialed.)

When the Abu Ghraib story came out, I was disgusted and ashamed that Americans had done those things, but I was relieved that at least the captives in the photographs were only being humiliated and degraded. And maybe it wasn't widespread, maybe the stories about guards letting dogs attack (not just threaten) naked detainees (dogs trained to go for the genitals) weren't true, and maybe the stories by "Newsweek" and others, about desecrating the Koran, were fabricated to arouse the Muslim world. But the report the NYTimes obtained and described is a U.S. Army report. There's no hope of a retraction of this one.

Does anyone doubt that the kind of thing that is now proven to have gone on at Bagram and Abu Ghraib also goes on at Guantanamo and other American acknowledged and secret interrogation centers? I thought before that the victims of our "extraordinary rendition" program probably got even worse than the "detainees" in our own places, but really, how could they? Worse than hanging hooded people up to the wire ceilings of their cells by their manacled hands for days? Worse than kicking them in the groin or permanently (and intentionally) crippling them by kneeing them repeatedly in the thighs? Worse than letting at least these two die hung up in their hoods in their cells? Holy shit! Nice young American boys and girls are doing all this. It's right there in the Army's report.

Just to top it all off, the report says that most of the guards who participated in the beating and death of the smaller of these two victims (taxi driver, 5'9", 122lb, 22yrs, married w/1 child) thought he was probably innocent, just an unfortunate passer-by at a terrorist action.

Part of the problem is said to be that these Americans are not trained for this duty; they just got assigned to it. So we don't have sadists volunteering; these are just ordinary soldiers and Marines. And we didn't train them, against their natures, to be vicious; it came naturally. Bad apples keep turning up all over the place.

Cutting off heads is not looking quite so barbaric as it used to, when you compare it to the things in this report, except that some of the heads were American and videotaping it is in bad taste. We should punish those guys.

These horrors could be stopped, very quickly, at least the ones by Americans, by an order from the top, if the order were clear and unambiguous, couldn't they? But the order doesn't seem to have been given. Why not?

One Response:

I say we just abolish all US Military and local, state, and federal police and let everyone in the worrld see our peaceful intentions and desires IF in fact it is true that our actions are the reason people in the world don't like us then as soon as we become a nation completely exposed if you will then everyone will immediately love us and we will be safe.

Sounds sarcastic, but who knows until you try it. Why should history or experience be a guide. Perhaps this will change the world. I could write lots more but you wouldn't believe it anyway.

My reply:

You might be on the right track. We have done such lasting and terrible damage to ourselves in the eyes of the world by all this abuse, not to mention the damage to our own self-respect and the deaths and injuries we’ve dealt to innocent victims, that we would be better off if we had never had any of these interrogation places, or if we had actually treated all our “detainees” well. I don’t think “history or experience” guide us to think that savagery and sadism are effective tools for anything we would want. It’s not really too far-fetched to think that letting them all go, or treating them all well would “change the world.” It might be seen as an advance of civilization or as evidence we are better than the former Iraqi and Afghan regimes we have overthrown.

-- J. H.

More Links:

The New York Times (via Truthout): In US Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths

The Guardian: Papers reveal Bagram abuse

Mother Jones: From Bagram to Abu Ghraib

The New York Times (via Truthout): Editorial - Patterns of Abuse