This past weekend’s attacks on the Abu Ghraib prison facility should be welcomed as a direct assault on the foremost icon of Bush’s War of Terror. Abu Ghraib has the same meaning to Iraqis as did the Bastille to the French prior to the Revolution: an enduring symbol of arbitrary state power and cruelty. Under Saddam the prison could be dismissed as the logical exponent of a tyrannical regime bent on removing political opponents. Now, however, under the authority of Bush and Rumsfeld, it has devolved into the torture-capital of the Middle East, flaunting international law and ignoring even minimal standards of human decency. Abu Ghraib is the epicenter of Bush’s new world barbarism, a phenomenon that is extending its tentacles throughout the region.
Saddam never dreamed up the sexually deviant torture that has been used on the prisoners at Abu Ghraib. That was inspired and authorized by the men at the very top of America’s political establishment, many of whom matriculated at America’s finest universities, like Harvard, Yale and Princeton. It’s ironic that these institutions have unleashed this new pestilence on the world, this well-educated cadre of corporate tormentors.
For the most part, the truth of Abu Ghraib is concealed by the collaborative American media, the state information service. They have disguised the obvious implications of Bush’s torture gulag. In fact, Abu Ghraib, like Guantanamo and the other stars in the American prison constellation, is a laboratory where the Defense Dept is analyzing the limits of human suffering. We know this from the many eyewitness accounts of sense-deprivation techniques, drugs forced up prisoners rectums, extreme temperature variations, isolation chambers etc. A whole range of afflictions is being used with clinical precision to gage the parameters of human endurance. This Nazi-like attention to detail is assisted by both doctors and paramedics alike (which was reported last year in most American newspapers), each lending his hand to this new regime of state terror.
Currently, the occupation forces are holding an estimated 10,000 Iraqi prisoners; none of whom have been charged with a crime or who have access to legal representation. The vast majority has been arrested in “massive sweeps” in response to the burgeoning insurgency. This has caused a steep increase in the prison population from 4,300 following the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal to the present level of 10,000. The overcrowding has produced dangerous sanitation problems (with reports of raw sewage in the prison itself), prison rioting, rotten food and outbreaks of Tuberculosis. In a recent interview with Army Reservist Aiden Delgado (by Paul Rockwell), Delgado gave a chilling account of a prisoner demonstration at Abu Ghraib last November:
The prisoners were protesting nightly because of their living conditions. They protested the cold, the lack of clothing, the rotting food that was causing dysentery. And they wanted cigarettes. They tore up pieces of clothing, made banners and signs. One demonstration became intense and got unruly. The prisoners picked up the stones, pieces of wood, and threw them at the guards. One of my buddies got hit in the face. He got a bloody nose. He wasn’t hurt. The guards asked permission to use lethal force. They got it. They opened fire on the prisoners with machine guns. They shot twelve and killed three. I know because I talked to the guy who did the killing. He showed me these grisly photographs, and bragged about the results. “Oh”, he said, “I shot this guy in the face. See, his head split open.” He talked like the Terminator. “I shot this guy in the groin, he took three days to bleed to death.” I was shocked. This was the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. He was a family man, a really courteous guy, a devout Christian. I was stunned and said to him: “You shot an unarmed man behind barbed wire for throwing a stone.” He said, “Well, I knelt down. I said a prayer, stood up and gunned them down.” There was a complete disconnect between what he had done and his own morality.
According to Delgado, “grisly photos were taken by Command and “posted at Headquarters.” It was considered macho for one company to “shoot more prisoners than any other unit.” (Paul Rockwell, Online Journal)
Delgado’s story isn’t exceptional nor is the horrific treatment of Iraqi detainees accidental. The brutality at Abu Ghraib is the natural expression of the pervading Bush ethos, a culture of abuse and cynicism that saturates the entire system. Beyond the flowery rhetoric about “democracy” and “freedom” the real workings of the Bush regime are evident in the photographs and stories that have made their way into the public. This is the real policy; the rest is just public relations.
Abu Ghraib is Bush’s Buchenwald, a monument to sadism and barbarity. What difference does it make it make if it’s attacked by angry family members, insurgents or even Bin Laden itself? The point is to knock the facility down and release the prisoners. The mere existence of Abu Ghraib runs counter to the basic ideals of justice, human rights and the rule of law. Whatever action is taken to obliterate the prison is in everyone’s best interest.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: email@example.com.
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