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The Proof is in the Military's Own Autopsy Reports

Death By Torture: US Media Ignores Hard Evidence

by PETER PHILLIPS

Military autopsy reports provide indisputable proof that detainees are being tortured to death while in US military custody. Yet the US corporate media are covering it with the seriousness of a garage sale for the local Baptist Church.

A recent American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) posting of one of forty-four US military autopsy reports reads as follows:

"Final Autopsy Report: DOD 003164, (Detainee) Died as a result of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation as evidenced by the recently fractured hyoid bone in the neck and soft tissue hemorrhage extending downward to the level of the right thyroid cartilage. Autopsy revealed bone fracture, rib fractures, contusions in mid abdomen, back and buttocks extending to the left flank, abrasions, lateral buttocks. Contusions, back of legs and knees; abrasions on knees, left fingers and encircling to left wrist. Lacerations and superficial cuts, right 4th and 5th fingers. Also, blunt force injuries, predominately recent contusions (bruises) on the torso and lower extremities. Abrasions on left wrist are consistent with use of restraints. No evidence of defense injuries or natural disease. Manner of death is homicide. Whitehorse Detainment Facility, Nasiriyah, Iraq."

The ACLU website further reveals how: "a 27-year-old Iraqi male died while being interrogated by Navy Seals on April 5, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. During his confinement he was hooded, flex-cuffed, sleep deprived and subjected to hot and cold environmental conditions, including the use of cold water on his body and hood. The exact cause of death was "undetermined" although the autopsy stated that hypothermia may have contributed to his death.

Another Iraqi detainee died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated. He was standing, shackled to the top of a doorframe with a gag in his mouth, at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries.

So read several of the 44 US military autopsy reports on the ACLU website -evidence of extensive abuse of US detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan 2002 through 2004. Anthony Romero, Executive Director of ACLU stated, "There is no question that US interrogations have resulted in deaths." ACLU attorney Amrit Sing adds, "These documents present irrefutable evidence that US operatives tortured detainees to death during interrogations."

Additionally, ACLU reports that in April 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld authorized the use of "environmental manipulation" as an interrogation technique in Guantánamo Bay. In September 2003, Lt. Gen. Sanchez also authorized this technique for use in Iraq. So responsibility for these human atrocities goes directly to the highest levels of power.

A press release on these deaths by torture was issued by the ACLU on October 25, 2005 and was immediately picked up by Associated Press and United Press International wire services, making the story available to US corporate media nationwide. A thorough check of Nexus-Lexus and Proquest electronic data bases, using the keywords ACLU and autopsy, showed that at least 95percent of the daily papers in the US didn’t bother to pick up the story. The Los Angeles Times covered the story on page A-4 with a 635-word report headlined "Autopsies Support Abuse Allegations." Fewer than a dozen other daily newspapers including: Bangor Daily News, Maine, page 8; Telegraph-Herald, Dubuque Iowa, page 6; Charleston Gazette, page 5; Advocate, Baton Rouge, page 11; and a half dozen others actually covered the story. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Seattle Times buried the story inside general Iraq news articles. USA Today posted the story on their website. MSNBC posted the story to their website, but apparently did not consider it newsworthy enough to air on television.

"The Randi Rhodes Show," on Air America Radio, covered the story. AP/UPI news releases and direct quotes from the ACLU website appeared widely on internet sites and on various news-based listservs around the world, including Common Dreams, Truthout, New Standard, Science Daily, and numerous others.

What little attention the news of the US torturing prisoners to death did get has completely disappeared as context for the torture stories now appearing in corporate media. A Nexus-Lexus search November 30, 2005 of the major papers in the US using the word torture turned up over 1,000 stories in the last 30 days. None of these included the ACLU report as supporting documentation on the issue.

How can the American public understand the gravity of the torture that is currently being committed in our name when the issue is being reported with no reference to the extent to which these crimes against humanity have gone? Has the internet become the only source of real news for mainstream Americans while the corporate media only tells us what they want us to know?

PETER PHILLIPS is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored a media research organization. www.project.censored.org

ACLU source documents online at: http://action.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/102405/