In light of the recent Boston Marathon Day bombings, many have once again been motivated by fear to single out and scapegoat a certain segment of the population, Arabs and Muslims, in an attempt to hold them responsible for the violence that took place April 15, 2013. Given all the negative aspersions being caste on Muslims as well as foreigners and perceived foreigners in general this past month, it is perhaps more important now than ever before to look back on a very different April back in 2004, exactly nine years ago today. It was on the evening of Wednesday, April 28 that CBS’s 60 Minutes first broke the news that shocked the nation and the entire world. They had obtained 8 exclusive photographs of prisoners detained in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq being physically and sexually abused by none other than United States military personnel, and the question on everyone’s mind was whether or not this was official U.S. policy, or was it just a couple of soldiers “gone rogue.”
These photographs came to light only because a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, Spc. Sabrina Harmon, took pictures of the torture they inflicted and sent them to friends back home in an apparent attempt to boast about how “tough” she was being with these “terrorists.” Of course, in reality the U.S. military’s victims in this case weren’t “terrorists” at all. According to the military’s own intelligence, which was in turn relayed to the International Red Cross, up to 90% of all inmates interned in U.S. occupational prisons in Iraq, in addition to CIA “black sites”, were innocent and never charged with a crime. Instead they had been turned based on bogus information relayed to them by anonymous citizen “sources”, who in turn were simply responding to U.S. fliers notifying citizens that they could receive thousands of dollars in reward money, paid out under condition that they provide information on people who had “links to terrorism.” But what these painfully graphic photographs demonstrate is that terrorism is by no means exclusive to any cultural, regional, or religious population. The men and women held captive at Abu Ghraib prison and tortured throughout the year 2003 each had families, loved ones, hopes and aspirations much the same way as each and every one of us does. But unlike many of us, they were forced to suffer through unfathomable brutality and humiliation at the hands of their American captors, all in the name of U.S. Imperialism. What’s more, it’s easy to look at these images with disgust and anger directed at American soldiers who could commit such horrendous acts of torture, as indeed we should. But ask yourself: how different are they really from us? By “us”, I refer to the collective values that define us as an American people, who sat by helplessly, watched and even supported this war and countless others – from Vietnam to Afghanistan. It is absolutely essential to understand that neither these wars nor the horrific events unfolding in the pictures below ever could have happened without the public first being desensitized to certain segments of the human population. Throughout American history, groups who have been victimized by this sort of “us vs. them” mentality have included Native Americans, African Americans, Asians (especially the Vietnamese), and now Muslims. This IS in fact what War is in its most naked form. Once all the rhetoric of bringing “freedom” and “democracy” is stripped away, we are left with little, if anything, gained for the betterment of the vast majority of people. If this is indeed what “true democracy” looks like, do you really wish to partake in it?
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGERY AHEAD; NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG VIEWERS!!:
Sergeant Ivan “Chip” Frederick seemingly enjoys watching detainees chained in brutally uncomfortable stress positions in these photographs. He was a “correctional” officer in the state of Virginia before being stationed at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad in 2003.
Spc. Charles Graner seen here was known as the “ring leader”. He was eventually given the harshest sentence for these photo leaks of all those who were indicted in the case. He received the highest prison sentence of those charged – 10 years, although he only served 6.5 of these. Sergeant Ivan “Chip” Frederick was given a sentence of 8-years, while Pfc. Lynndie England was sentenced to 3. No one else served more than 1 year. Not coincidentally, those at the higher end of military and Intelligence Command were never investigated nor indicted. All in all, 11 low-ranking soldiers faced some sort of penalty in the end.
By far the most famous photo that emerged from Abu Ghraib, the detainee seen here is being tortured through a tactic which originated in Brazil known as “the Vietnam.” It is a torture method in which the victim is made to stand in a stressful position on top of a box, deprived of sleep for hours upon days, and threatened with electrocution if they should lose their balance and fall off. According to a documentary which aired on HBO called “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib”, the fact that these tactics were used is noteworthy because it demonstrates that this wasn’t a case of “a few bad apples” of the U.S. military who “went rouge”, for lack of a better term. They were obviously trained in these tactics.
A detainee who’d somehow had two of his fingers burned off, becomes the butt-of-a-joke to serve the guards’ tasteless humor, who refer to him mockingly as “The Claw” seen written on the back of his orange jumpsuit.
Charles Graner Jr. and Sabrina Harmon pose over the corpses of men allegedly beaten to death by CIA interrogators or private interrogators. The victim seen here is said to be Manadel al-Jamadi, a “ghost prisoner”; meaning he was unidentified by agents involved in his capture and his death went unrecorded.
The man seen here, covered in mud, suffered from severe mental illness and was prone to harming himself. The staff at Abu Ghraib took delight in this and found it quite humorous. Here he is, legs chained, and covered in mud and feces, forced to try and walk in a straight line. He was never charged with any link to terrorism whatsoever. Below, this very same man is chained and made to insert a banana in his butt.
Spc. Lynndie England seen here mercilessly dragging a prisoner across the ground. And below: She is photographed with Charles Graner as they placed bags over detainees’ heads and forced them to stroke themselves in front of women, something which must have been especially shameful for them in light of their religious customs.
Forced into sexually degrading positions as a means of humiliation. Clearly nothing was off-limits in the U.S. military’s attempts to “break” these men in.
The infamous “pyramid” photo, in which Charles Graner and Sabrina Harmon are photographed triumphantly standing over their captives’ mangled bodies. According to one of the men forced to form this human pyramid, each of them was made to masturbate as they climbed one on top of the other.
Graner and England arrogantly giving a “thumbs-up” sign to the camera, displaying their sheer pride in belonging to the “dominant” race. This image, more than any other, symbolizes U.S. imperialism and everything it stands for.
The following images have been added as of September 8, 2013:
The following image could be one of the most disturbing yet, although it is unclear for certain what exactly is taking place. It was obtained by the Associated Press and was taken in Abu Ghraib in either 2003 or 2004. Perhaps not surprisingly the only person present in this photograph who has so far been positively identified is the man sitting with his back against the wall, identified as Adel L. Nakhla. Note the U.S. flag emblem located on the right shoulder of his uniform.