Sy Hersh on Abu Ghraib

More on abuses at Abu Ghraib, this time from Sy Hersh

This is most detailed account I’ve seen so far of the problems at Abu Ghraib under the command of Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski. It’s a tough read, considering that it’s all detailed in a confidential Army report Hersh obtained.

A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating. Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added — “detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.” Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their “extremely sensitive nature.”

Hersh’s report is that Taguba’s conclusion regarding the Iraqi prison system was “an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority.”
The abuses at Abu Ghraib were _not_ the actions of a “a few bad apples,” but a systemic failure that will poison the entire Iraqi adventure — and possibly the wider war against Islamist terror.
The full article is here. (Thanks, Deana!)

My Idea for the Iraqi Flag

A modest idea for a new Iraqi flag that is better than the IGC-imposed one.

flag copy.jpg

Not having enough to do, much like the Iraqi Governing Council, I whipped up my own idea for a new Iraqi flag this morning and thought I’d post it and see what you all thought.
The red, green and black are there, with their original symbolism: Green for the Prophet’s green flag, black for the Abbasid’s black flags and the red for remembrance of the 1958 revolution that brought the country true independence. The white field can stand for both the Ummayid’s white flags and also peace. The crescent is obviously a symbol of Islam and the blue color represents justice, freedom and vigilance. (It’s also a nod to the Turkmen.) The yellow star represents the Kurds. Embedding it in the Arab colors symbolizes the desire for a unified Iraqi state, which is embraced by Islam.
I dunno. This was just a quick design from a guy with “30 minutes and a Macintosh”: — me. It’s not intended to offend anyone and I hope it doesn’t. It was just a possible alternative to the “lame IGC flag”: Maybe it will inspire people when the time comes for the Iraqi people to choose their own flag.
Again, please bear in mind this is just doodling. I don’t expect anyone but Iraqis to design their own flag. To assume I think otherwise would be wrong.

British abuse of captives

Now it’s the Brits who are abusing prisoners.

_40103599_mirror203.jpgUnconscionable. Now some British soldiers are implicated in the beating and humiliation of at least one Iraqi prisoner.

The Mirror says the pictures were handed over by British soldiers who claimed a rogue element in the British army was responsible for abusing prisoners and civilians.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the soldiers told the paper no charges were brought against the unnamed captive.
They allege during his eight-hour ordeal he was threatened with execution, his jaw broken and his teeth smashed.
After being beaten and urinated on, he was driven away and dumped from the back of a moving vehicle, the soldiers claimed, unaware if he was dead.

The full story from the _Daily Mirror_ is here. Warning: The photos are graphic.

Britain’s army chief, Gen. Mike Jackson, ordered an immediate inquiry after it emerged that the Daily Mirror newspaper in its Saturday editions published photos of British soldiers abusing prisoners.
The paper told Reuters the images included one of a British soldier urinating on a crouching, hooded Iraqi.
After talks with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, [President George W.] Bush told reporters: “I also want to remind people that those few people who did that do not reflect the nature of the men and women we’ve sent overseas. That’s not the way the people are. It’s not their character, that are serving our nation in the cause of freedom.
“And there will be an investigation,” Bush said of the troops’ actions. “I think they’ll be taken care of.”

Bush said he was “disgusted.” “I am disgusted, too,”: and outraged. Billmon has more. This past month will be seen as a turning point in this war, I think, when things went so pear-shaped that the occupiers were forced to counter an enraged and armed populace with increasingly muscular firepower. I’m not predicting — yet — the U.S. will be forced from Iraq, but I think the casualties are about to go up a lot — on both sides.
Do the perpetrators of these outrages know the danger they have placed their comrades and every other foreigner working in Iraq? Do they have any idea how taboo both public nudity and homosexuality are in the Islamic world? Do they realize that they have given who knows how many angry young men a strong shove into the arms of Al Qaeda, Jaysh al-Mahdi or the general Iraqi insurgency?
It seems they must have had at least an instinctual knowledge of how awful their abuse would be. They picked a perfect storm of taboos and humiliation — and documented it! — that would enrage the Arab world.
You can’t underestimate the importance of dignity and pride in Islamic culture. It’s one of the religion’s defining characteristics, and even the humblest of goat herders I met in Iraq comported himself with dignity and treated me with a great deal of respect.
But humiliation stings deeply in such a culture, and the Arab world is still keenly aware of its decline against the West, who are often viewed as a rabble of upstart Christians who should be more grateful for astronomy, the number zero and the basics of the pulmonary system, just to name a few gifts of the Arabs. At its zenith the Islamic civilization was the most advanced in the world.
So to have the personal humiliation of the prisoners compounded by such taboos as nudity and homosexuality, and at the hands of a woman soldier from an invading Western army, no less, will be, I fear, too much. In early April, Americans saw how angry the Iraqis were at the occupation with the “massacre in Fallujah”: At the end of April, Americans — and the British — found out why.