FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Road to Abu Ghraib

by SHARON SMITH

Even before the Bush administration invaded Iraq in March 2003, human rights organizations were raising allegations of torture at U.S. prisons in Afghanistan.

At the time, the State Department dismissed their allegations as “ridiculous” (just as the White House recently feigned outrage when Newsweek claimed that Guantanamo interrogators flushed the Koran down the toilet–even as evidence surfaced that they urinated on it). As recently as December, military spokesperson Lt. Col. Pamela Keeton claimed an Army investigation “found no evidence of abuse taking place” in Afghanistan, according to the BBC.

All that changed last week, when the New York Times exposed the sadistic killing of two Afghan detainees in December 2002–both kicked to death, while chained to the ceiling by their wrists at the Bagram air base–based on the Army’s own leaked investigation. The Army investigation is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as mounting evidence exposes an expansive and overlapping system of torture and killing at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.

Afghan prisons, along with Guantánamo, provided the hands-on training for the interrogation techniques made famous at Abu Ghraib. Many of the same interrogators who honed their skills at Bagram ended up at Abu Ghraib in 2003–both times under the direction of Capt. Carolyn A. Wood.

Specialist Damien “Monster” Corsetti–known affectionately as the “King of Torture” among his Bagram colleagues–was later fined and demoted for forcing an Iraqi woman to strip during an interrogation at Abu Ghraib. Yet Corsetti remains a free man. Although Army investigators found “probable cause” to charge him with assault, prisoner maltreatment and indecent acts at Bagram, he has not formally been charged.

So far, only seven soldiers have been charged with any crime related to torture at Bagram–and no one has been convicted.

According to the watchdog group Human Rights First, the U.S. admits that 108 people died while in U.S. custody–63 of them at prisons other than Abu Ghraib. But this figure is suspect, since most of those detained by U.S. forces are never entered into the military’s “system.”

Since 2001, 65,000 people have been screened at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, but only 30,000 were eventually categorized as “detainees.” By December 2004, the U.S. military still had no central database even for official detainees in Afghanistan.

Much of the worst abuse occurs right after arrest, in temporary holding facilities, where interrogators use torture to “soften up” prisoners to extract information. The International Committee of the Red Cross is rarely allowed access to these facilities to document treatment of prisoners–and then only after they have been held for at least 15 days. The two detainees murdered at Bagram in 2002 were dead long before then.

Nor does the U.S. command allow Afghanistan’s human rights commission–a government body–into prisons, although the commission is flooded with requests from distraught Afghan citizens seeking the whereabouts of disappeared loved ones. As Newsday recently reported, “A top U.S. officer said the U.S. command is not fully convinced that the commission’s members are all ‘good guys.'”

In addition, prisoners held by the CIA often do not enter the military’s statistics at all. The CIA runs a separate interrogation facility at Bagram, known as “the Salt Pit,” where even U.S. military interrogators are denied access. In November 2002, a detainee froze to death in the Salt Pit after being stripped naked, chained down and left overnight. Yet his name never appeared in the military’s database or even on the CIA’s “ghost detainee” list, according to Human Rights First.

The lawlessness inside Afghanistan’s detention facilities is a microcosm of Afghan society itself, where U.S. troops bomb villages, raid homes and murder at will–three-and-a-half years after “liberation.”

Last September, in the middle of the night, U.S. troops shot and killed English teacher Muhammad Rais Khan while raiding his home and detaining his brother. A day later, his brother died in U.S. custody. Army officers dismissed their deaths to Newsday, explaining that the Khan brothers were “bad guys”–according to the local warlord, anyway, who had an axe to grind against them.

U.S.-backed warlords who control most of Afghanistan’s countryside with private armies continue to enrich themselves with opium profits while the U.S. looks the other way. Far from a fledgling “democracy,” U.S.-occupied Afghanistan is an experiment in barbarism.

Just as Bagram paved the way for Abu Ghraib, the war on Afghanistan provided the launching pad for the invasion of Iraq. Now the havoc produced by the U.S. occupation of both countries provides the excuse for the U.S. to remain.

The same web of lies used to invade Iraq was used to justify the war on Afghanistan–and forms the basis for the entire “war on terror.”

SHARON SMITH’s new book is Women and Socialism. She can be reached at: sharon@internationalsocialist.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
July 26, 2016
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail