FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Preserving the Abu Ghraib Culture

by RAMZY BAROUD

“When they first put the electricity on me, I gasped; my body went rigid and the bag came off my head,” Israa Salah, a detained Iraqi woman told Human Rights Watch (HRW) in her heartrending testimony.

Israa (not her real name) was arrested by US and Iraqi forces in 2010. She was tortured to the point of confessing to terrorist charges she didn’t commit. According to HRW’s “No One is Safe” – a 105-page report released on Feb 06 – there are thousands of Iraqi women in jail being subjected to similar practices, held with no charges, beaten and raped.

In Israa’s case, she received most degrading, but typical treatment. She was handcuffed, pushed down on her knees, and kicked in the face until her jaw broke. And when she refused to sign the confession, it was then that electric wires were attached to her handcuffs.

Welcome to the ‘liberated’ Iraq, a budding ‘democracy’ which American officials rarely cease celebrating. There is no denial that the brutal policies of the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki is a continuation of the same policies of the US military administration, which ruled over Iraq from 2003 until the departure of US troops in Dec. 2011.

It is as if the torturers have read from the same handbook. In fact, they did.

The torture and degrading treatment of Iraqi prisoners – men and women – in Abu Ghraib prison was not an isolated incident carried out by a few ‘bad apples.’ Only the naïve would buy into the ‘bad apples’ theory, and not because of the sheer horrendousness and frequency of the abuse. Since the Abu Ghraib revelations early in 2004, many such stories emerged, backed by damning evidence, not only throughout Iraq, but in Afghanistan as well. The crimes were not only committed by the Americans, but the British as well, followed by the Iraqis, who were chosen to continue with the mission of ‘democratization.’

“No One is Safe” presented some of the most harrowing evidence of the abuse of women by Iraq’s criminal ‘justice system’. The phenomenon of kidnapping, torturing, raping and executing women is so widespread that it seems shocking even by the standards of the country’s poor human rights record of the past. If such a reality were to exist in a different political context, the global outrage would have been so profound. Some in the ‘liberal’ western media, supposedly compelled by women’s rights would have called for some measure of humanitarian intervention, war even. But in the case of today’s Iraq, the HRW report is likely to receive bits of coverage where the issue is significantly deluded, and eventually forgotten.

In fact, the discussion of the abuse of thousands of women – let alone tens of thousands of men – has already been discussed in a political vacuum. A buzzword that seems to emerge since the publication of the report is that the abuse confirms the ‘weaknesses’ of the Iraqi judicial system. The challenge then becomes the matter of strengthening a weak system, perhaps through channeling more money, constructing larger facilities, and providing better monitoring and training, likely carried out by US-led training of staff.

Mostly absent are the voices of women’s groups, intellectuals and feminists who seem to be constantly distressed by the traditional marriage practices in Yemen, for example, or the covering up of women’s faces in Afghanistan. There is little, if any, uproar and outrage, when brown women suffer at the hands of western men and women, or their cronies, as is the situation in Iraq.

If the HRW report remerged in complete isolation from an equally harrowing political context created by the US invasion of Iraq, one could grudgingly excuse the relative silence. But it isn’t the case. The Abu Ghraib culture continues to be the very tactic by which Iraqis have been governed since March 2003.

Years after the investigation of the Abu Ghraib abuses had begun, Major General Antonio Taguba, who had conducted the inquiry, revealed that there were more than 2,000 unpublished photos documenting further abuse. “One picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee,” reported the Telegraph newspaper on May 2009.

Maj Gen Taguba had then supported Obama’s decision not to publish the photos, not out of any moralistic reasoning, but simply because “the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.” Of course, the British, the builders of security in Afghanistan, wrote their own history of infamy through an abuse campaign that never ceased since they had set foot in Afghanistan.

Considering the charged political atmosphere in Iraq, the latest reported abuses are of course placed in their own unique context. Most of the abused women are Sunni, and their freedom has been a major rallying cry for rebelling Sunni provinces in central and western Iraq. In Arab culture, dishonoring one through occupation and the robbing of one’s land comes second to dishonoring women. The humiliation that millions of Iraqi Sunni feel cannot be explained by words, and militancy is an unsurprising response to the government’s unrelenting policies of dehumanization, discrimination and violence.

While post-US invasion Iraq was not a heaven for democracy and human rights, the ‘new Iraq’ has solidified a culture of impunity that holds nothing sacred. In fact, dishonoring entire societies has been a tactic in al-Maliki’s dirty war. Many women were “rounded up for alleged terrorist activities by male family members,” reported the Associated Press, citing the HRW report.

“Iraqi security forces and officials act as if brutally abusing women will make the country safer,” said Joe Stork, deputy MENA director at HRW. It was the same logic that determined that through ‘shock and awe’ Iraqis could be forced into submission.

Neither theory proved accurate. The war and rebellion in Iraq will continue as long as those holding the key to that massive Iraqi prison understand that human rights must be respected as a precondition to a lasting peace.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail