The New York Times reported yesterday in An Afghan Gives His Own Account of U.S. Abuse that Abu Ghraib is not an isolated incident, but one in a long line of U.S. prison torture/terror episodes. The article profiles an Afghan police colonel, Nabi Siddiqui, who attempted to blow the whistle on police corruption only to be denounced as a Taliban member (probably by one of those he accused). He spent 40 days in U.S. custody last summer–blessedly short compared to some of those at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib–but still long enough to suffer many of the same indignities inflicted on prisoners at those facilities. Here is a litany of what U.S. soldiers meted out to him:
…Beating, kicking, sleep deprivation, taunts and sexual abuse. He also said he had been repeatedly photographed, often while naked.
former Afghan detainee shows position he assumed
with a U.S. military interrogator’s boot on his neck
(credit: Carlotta Gal/ New York Times)
“They [interrogators] were taunting me and laughing and asking very rude questions, like which animal did I like having sex with, and which animal do you want us to bring in for you to have sex with.”
“They were mimicking the sounds of a sheep, a cow and a donkey,” he said, “and asking which one I would like to have sex with. They kept insisting, and they were kicking me so much that eventually I said a cow.”
“And they made insults about our women,” he added. He said the American interrogator, through a translator, had taunted him, asking: “Do you know that your wife and daughter are prostitutes now?”
“The Americans were asking this and the translators were translating, and they were all laughing,” he said. “And I was in my full police uniform with insignia showing my rank.”
More than once, he said, soldiers inserted their fingers into his anus. He said one had touched his penis and asked, “Why is this unhappy?”
“Every time, they were laughing and putting their fingers in my anus and they were putting their feet on my neck,” he said. He knelt and pressed his head to the floor to show how the soldiers had put their boots on his neck.
“We were lying on our stomachs, and they put chains on our hands and feet and they were kicking us,” he said. “And then they took photos of us, although we were naked.”
“There was an old man of 70 or 80,” he added. “They stripped him naked. He was so ashamed, he said, `It would be better if I kill myself.’ I don’t know why they stripped us and beat us. Maybe to influence us before the interrogation.”
The “Abuse? What Abuse” Award Goes to…
The award for most obtuse, self-serving and flat out wrong comment of the day from a military official is from the chief military public affairs officer in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Matthew Beevers
“We treat these folks very humanely,” he said in an interview. “They get three meals a day, food is appropriate to their cultural dietary requirements, they get exercise, and probably the best medical care in the country, and they are allowed freely to practice their religion.”
“They are not stripped naked in Bagram,” he added. “They wear clothes.”
So just how isolated and unique is Abu Ghraib? I’m firmly convinced, despite what the military spokepeople keep telling us, that these torture techniques (for let’s call them what they really are) are standard operating procedure since 9/11. Indeed, the article points out that Afghan prisoners have complained about precisely these types of torture abuses going all the way back to the October, 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Bush and Rumsfeld are results-oriented pols. As far as Al Qaeda and Arab terror (whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan or here in the U.S.), that means getting information from prisoners by whatever means necessary as long as there is little likelihood that these activities will not come back to haunt them. It now appears that they gave far too much attention to the former and far too little to the latter.
Maj. Gen. Taguba and Undersecretary of Defense
Cambone testify before Senate Armed Services
Committee (credit: Stephen Crowley/ New York Times)
Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, Hero of Abu Ghraib
One of the heroes of this scandal (if there can be any) is Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who wrote the report on the Abu Ghraib abuse. Taguba had the guts and temerity to contradict Stephen Cambone, Rummy’s top intelligence lackey (Rumsfeld Aide and a General Clash on Abuse). Rumsfeld, Cambone and senior Army intelligence offcials like Gen. Keith Alexander are desperate to blame the problem on “a group of undisciplined military police.” Taguba has the chutzpah to say to this unstoppable Pentagon steamroller: not so fast. According to the article,
Taguba told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it had been against the Army’s doctrine for another Army general to recommend last summer that military guards “set the conditions” to help Army intelligence officers extract information from prisoners. He also said an order last November from the top American officer in Iraq effectively put the prison guards under the command of the intelligence unit there.
[While he] depicted the abuses at the prison as the acts of a few soldiers under a fragmented and inept command, he also said that “they were probably influenced by others, if not necessarily directed specifically by others.” His report called for an inquiry into the culpability of intelligence officers.
An outcome that Pentagon highrollers want to avoid at all costs.
My fear is that for all Gen. Taguba’s speaking truth to power (not a quality widely admired or rewarded in this Administration), his career will rapidly decline into oblivion. The Times profile of Taguba notes
[He] has served as a brigade commander, but he has not held a division command, a step often seen as as a prerequisite for those who aspire to the Army’s very highest ranks. The Pentagon announced Friday that he would soon take a new post in Washington as a deputy assistant secretary for reserve affairs, a move that in Army culture is not seen as a major promotion.
Mark my words, despite his high profile and the extraordinarily high regard in which many Americans and members of Congress hold him, Rumsfeld and the Army brass are not done with him. I’m sure when this scandal wears off (which won’t be for some time) they have some nice backwater post to relegate him to–and it would be a rotten shame too.