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Iraq torture photos:
This is what occupation looks like

May 14, 2004 | Page 1

"FOR THE next 50 years in the Islamic world and many other parts of the world, the image of the United States will be that of an American soldier dragging a prostrate, naked Iraqi across the floor on a leash." That was the comment of a U.S. senator last week, and it is no exaggeration.

The true face of the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been exposed for the world to see by the images of torture carried out by American troops at Abu Ghraib prison--the notorious hellhole where Saddam Hussein sent his political opponents to be abused and executed.

Turns out that "Saddam's torture chambers"--which George W. Bush claims to have shut down with his invasion of Iraq--are still open for business. Only under new management.

The Bush administration--so arrogant after the quick U.S. conquest of Iraq only a year ago--is facing its deepest crisis yet with the revelation of the photos. And there is worse to come, as even the Pentagon admits.

Every day brings ghastly new reports of U.S. atrocities--war crimes that were committed and reported months ago, but are only now being highlighted by the compliant corporate media. "We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience," right-wing Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Fla.) warned last week. "We're talking about rape and murder."

Bush and his fellow war makers can talk all they want about "liberating" the Iraqi people, but the truth is plain. The goal of the invasion of Iraq from day one was to steal Iraq's oil wealth and spread the U.S. empire. That required forcing Iraqis to bend to Washington's will--by whatever methods.

As Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper put it in an editorial: "The behavior of these soldiers is totally in line with the mission for which they came to Iraq to begin with: to invade this major Arab country, destroy its economic and military capabilities, tear up its state as a service to Israeli interests, control its enormous oil wealth and eliminate anything that might hinder these aims, whether this comes from the [Iraqi] army, the people or the armed national resistance."

No wonder the Washington establishment is desperate to control the damage. The Bush administration and its defenders in both the Republican and Democratic Parties claim that the torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners were "exceptions," committed by a few "bad apples."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed during his Senate testimony last week that he was upset and outraged when the torture photos appeared in the media. No doubt he was--because he got caught.

In February, the International Committee of the Red Cross produced a report to the U.S. government detailing the abuses portrayed in the photos--and worse. But all the Pentagon did was go into cover-up mode--until the photos finally emerged.

Now, the U.S. troops who appeared in the photos will face criminal charges and a show trial. But responsibility for the torture goes much higher. "We were dealing here with a broad pattern, not individual acts," said Pierre Krähenbühl, the Red Cross director of operations. "There was a pattern and a system."

The U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib were under orders from military intelligence officers--and a shadowy network of "civilian" interrogators apparently working for the CIA--to "soften up" prisoners for interrogators. As liberal commentator and Clinton-era government official Sidney Blumenthal put it, the Bush administration has created a worldwide gulag, stretching from Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo, to Abu Ghraib in Iraq, to the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and unknown numbers of secret CIA prisons around the globe.

Can anyone claim to be surprised that U.S. soldiers treated Iraqis worse than animals? The Bush administration whipped up a racist frenzy against the Arab world to get its war.

The neoconservative "hawks" who run Washington's war machine say openly that overwhelming military power is the only option in the Middle East--because the barbarians of the "Arab street" only understand force. Right-wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh say that the torture at Abu Ghraib is no more serious than "a college fraternity prank."

To the U.S. mainstream media, every Arab man--and woman--is a potential terrorist, and "we now depict Arabs in our films as the Nazis once depicted Jews," as antiwar journalist Robert Fisk wrote in Britain's Independent newspaper.

The photos of torture from Iraq have shocked the world. But not ordinary Iraqis who know the reality of occupation firsthand. "For a year now, Iraqis have been trying to tell journalists of the brutal treatment they are receiving at the hands of their occupiers," Fisk wrote last week. "They don't need these incriminating photographs to prove to them what they already know to be true."

The U.S. hasn't paused in its war on the Iraqi people, either. While the torture photos dominated the headlines, more details emerged from the city of Falluja--where Marines slaughtered an estimated 600 people, most of them women and children, before they were forced to withdraw after cobbling together a deal with former generals of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Meanwhile, the U.S. intensified its crackdown against the followers of militant Shiite cleric Moktadr al-Sadr. The Army's 2nd Cavalry is reportedly involved in daily gun battles with militias loyal to al-Sadr as it advances into Najaf--a city that is holy to the Shiite Muslims, who are the majority in Iraq. As Socialist Worker went to press, U.S. forces battered their way into a Shiite area of Baghdad to reduce al-Sadr's headquarters to rubble--killing at least 35 people in their assault.

Washington's war crimes in Iraq won't end until U.S. forces are driven out. This is why opponents of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq can't be satisfied with the punishment of a few rank-and-file soldiers--nor token Pentagon brass, nor even administration officials thrown overboard because of the scandal.

Atrocities like the torture at Abu Ghraib prison are the inevitable consequence of the U.S. imperialist project--to dominate Iraq in the interests of American corporations, and force its people to accept Washington's ironfisted rule.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress who celebrated their war--they're all guilty of war crimes. We should make them pay--by building an antiwar movement that can force Washington's war makers to end the occupation of Iraq now!

How the army teaches troops to torture

THE PENTAGON'S story is that the guards at Abu Ghraib prison weren't following U.S. military policy when they subjected Iraqi prisoners to abuse and torture. But the military teaches these methods--as interrogation techniques.

"Students" at the U.S. Army interrogation school in Fort Huachuca, Ariz., learn that sexual humiliation and abuse are particularly effective to use on Arab men. A Wall Street Journal reporter who was able to visit Fort Huachuca noted that recruits are taught 30 interrogation techniques, many of them based on shame and humiliation.

The trainees are taught "to prey on a prisoner's ethnic stereotypes, sexual urges and religious prejudices, his fear for his family's safety, or his resentment of his fellows," the reporter wrote after reading their training manual. Interrogation instructor John Giersdorf boasted that his job "is just a hair's breadth away from being an illegal specialty under the Geneva Convention."

Trained in brutality as a prison guard

SOME OF the U.S. troops caught up in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal were well prepared for their duties in Iraq. Spc. Charles Graner and Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick were both selected by the military to work at Abu Ghraib because, in their civilian lives, they work as prison guards.

Graner worked as a guard at SCI Greene, the super-max Pennsylvania prison that houses most of the state's death row prisoners--including death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. In 1998, two years after Graner began working at SCI Greene, the prison was at the center of a scandal after revelations that personnel routinely beat and humiliated prisoners.

Dozens of guards were implicated in actions that, according to Amnesty International, included: beating prisoners and then writing "KKK" with the inmates' blood; "working over" certain prisoners on the instructions of superior officers; and spitting tobacco juice into inmates' food.

SCI Greene officials refuse to say whether Graner was one of the guards disciplined. However, Britain's Independent newspaper revealed that Graner's former wife had to obtain three different emergency protection orders against him.

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