FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sexual Torture, Yet Again

by DAVID ROSEN

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) recently released a little-covered report, “Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel.” The media’s failure to report on this important study is unfortunate. [PHR, “Broken Laws, Broken Lives,” June 2009]

Like the proverbial faucet that drips drip by slow drip and finally gives way to a gushing flood, reports about Bush-era torture perpetrated upon alleged enemy combatants continue to drip out. The PHR report is the most disturbing of the handful of reports and scores of news accounts that deal with the torture of alleged enemy combatants.

Using case-study profiles, the PHR report details the treatment of eleven such combatants in Iraq and at Guantánamo. The report is all the more revealing because it pays careful attention to the medical, both physical and psychological, effects of the torture inflicted and medical treatment provided these detainees. It recounts the gruesome experience suffered by eleven apparently innocent men swept up in U.S. military round-ups and, after suffering painful torture and months of imprisonment, were released uncharged, but scared for life.

Most striking based on information presented in the PHR report, the men profiled are innocent, victims of arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture. None is accused of a crime; none has a lawyer; none face a trial; all were released. One is a farmer, another a businessmen; still others are retired military personnel and a manager. One is picked up in front of a mosque; others are seized during late-night raids of their homes by U.S. soldiers. Some go passively; others are seized and beaten protesting the beating of their wives and children. All are tortured and most receive some form of sexual torture, including forced sodomy.

The eleven men profiled in the PHR report are not notorious threats to national security like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah. They were waterboarded (or, as the International Red Cross calls it, “suffocation by water”) 183 times and 83 times, respectively. Rather, the men in the RHR report are what is euphemistically called “the fog of war.” Their innocence makes the villainy perpetrated against them by U.S. personnel all the more shameful.

A truism of modern life is that history, like war, is written by the victor. Bush’s war on terror will be recalled, like Johnson’s Vietnam war, as a military failure based on a president-initiated and media-facilitated lie. Like the false Bay of Tonkin attacks that provided the rationale for the Vietnam War, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to legitimize the invasion and occupation of a sovereign country. Today, Vietnam is in the Chinese orbit; tomorrow, Iraq will fall under the sway of Iran. American military interventions will turn out to be historical failures.

Most disturbing, Bush’s war on terror was marked by the sadism of power. The PHR report documents how war frees culturally sanctioned (masculine) prohibitions against the inflicting of sexual aggression on innocent people, prisoners. The rape and sexual torture inflicted as part of the war on terror was a military campaign expressing political power. Those in power, whether Bush and Rumsfeld or, a generation earlier, Johnson and McNamara, sanctioned torture and sexual degradation as legitimate tactics of a military campaign. While the Marquis de Sade could only dream of mass sexual sadism, America’s political elite, include its presidents, defense secretaries, military officer core and ground-level operatives, lived out a sadistic nightmare as the spoils of military power.

In a preface to the PHR report, Major General Antonio Taguba, author of a separate study for the U.S. military on Abu Ghraib, insists that the eleven men profiled in the study “deserve justice as required under the tenants of international law and the United States Constitution. And so do the American people.”

Only a full-scale Congressional investigation, similar to the 1975-1976 Church committee hearing on the CIA, will provide a hopefully full account of the horrors committed by the U.S. military, intelligence agencies and private contractors in the “war on terror.”

* * *

The PHR report profiles eleven victims of U.S. torture. Their individual experiences are worth recounting for they tell much about the U.S. torture system. The report documents the torture techniques, those involving “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” used on the eleven prisoners. These practices include: waterboarding, beating, stabbing, kicking, electric shock, stress positions, sleep deprivation, forced shaving, arm suspensions, cold-water immersion, food, water and sleep deprivation, noise bombardment, pepper spraying, extended periods of isolation, snarling dogs, exposure to the cold, death threats and a host of sexual abuses, like naked pyramids, exposed genitals, simulated homoerotic encounters and forced sodomization.

None of the eleven combatants profiled in the PHR report was indicted or convicted of a crime. After release, all suffered physical problems and varying degrees of PTSD, their lives ruined.

The report adheres to a policy of anonymous reporting, so the identities of the eleven prisoners remain private. The report also does not question the narrative stories presented by the detainees. Summary profiles, with special attention to the sexual abuse suffered, of the eleven detainees follow.

The first group consists of Iraqis:

· Kamal – a former Iraqi military officer in his late-40s and a father of seven, he is arrested in his Baghdad home in the middle of the night and kept at Abu Ghraib and other prisons for 21 months; he suffers repeated acts of sexual humiliation, including being stripped naked, paraded before female interrogators and having his penis pulled.

· Hefez – a retired Iraqi manager in his 50s with two years of college, a father of four and grandfather of two, he is arrested in his Baghdad home in the middle of the night and kept at Abu Ghraib and Baghdad Airport for seven months; while he reports only having his penis and tentacles painfully pulled, he suffers a post-imprisonment lack of sexual desire.

· Laith – a former Iraqi soldier in his mid-40s had previous spent 18 months in prison under Saddam Hussein, he is arrested in his Baghdad home in the middle of the night, his pregnant wife and children beaten by U.S. personnel and she miscarries, he was kept at Abu Ghraib and other prisons for eight months; he reports being sodomized, including by an electrical device, and was forced to wear soiled underwear and drink urine; he suffers sexual dysfunction and anal scars.

· Yasser – a former teacher and educated farmer in his mid-40s, he is picked up for no apparent reason in front of Baghdad mosque; he is kept at Abu Ghraib and other prisons for seven months; he reports being sodomized on fifteen separate occasions and suffers rectal bleeding; once freed, he lives with deep depression.

· Morad – a retired Iraqi civil servant and small businessman in his late-50s who supports a wife and six children, he is arrested in his Baghdad home in the middle of the night and kept at Abu Ghraib and other prisons for eight months; he appears to have not been subject to extreme interrogation or sexual torture.

· Rahman – a small businessman in his early-40s, he is arrested in his Baghdad shop and held at Abu Ghraib for nine months; he is forced to stand naked and hooded for extended periods; once freed, he suffers sexual dysfunction.

· Amir – his image being pulled around with a leather dog’s leash is immortalized in photos taken at Abu Ghraib; he is a salesman in his late-20s and the sole support of his mother, his brother’s wife and three children, he is arrested in the early morning hours while sleeping in his Baghdad hotel room; he is held at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca for 18 months and is sodomized with a broomstick and suffers rectal bleeding, is urinated on and kept naked for extended periods; freed, he lives with the humiliation of the Abu Ghriab photos.

The second group consists of men picked up in Afghanistan or Pakistan:

· Haydar– a poor man in his late-30s, married with four children–he leaves his native country (not identified) for Afghanistan looking for work; in the wake of 9/11, he fails in his attempt to flee the country and is detained at the Afghan border by the Taliban and handed over to the U.S. military; he spends the next 30 months in Kandahar and Guantánamo and is repeatedly beaten, stripped naked (often in front of U.S. female personnel) and his testicles painfully pulled.

· Adeel — a foreigner in his early-40s in Pakistan (his country of origin is not identified), he is married with five children and a teacher with an international group; he spends about four-and-one-half years in prisons after being picked up by the Pakistani military, imprisoned in Islamabad, sent to Bagram base in Afghanistan and ends up at Gitmo; he is forced to strip (often in front of who he believes to be female U.S. personnel) and undergoes repeated forced anal examination; after release, he suffers from chronic constipation.

· Yousssef – a devout poor Muslim man in his early-40s who is picked up by the Pakistani military crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan without a passport (his country of origin is not identified); he is held for more then two years in Kandahar and Guantánamo; in Kandahar, he is beaten, stripped naked and humiliated in front of U.S. female personnel; at Gitmo, he faces similar humiliation and is forced to look at pornography with men and women having intercourse, and undergoes interrogation by a U.S. female official who spreads him with what appeared to be menstral blood.

· Rasheed – a mid-30s engineer, married with two children, he fled his country of origin (not identified) after converting to Islam and is picked up living in an Afghan refuge camp; he spends about five years prison in Kandahar and Guantánamo where he is stripped naked, shaved, had female military personnel take pictures of him and suffered repeated body cavity searches; he attempts suicide, including beating his head against a wall.

The PHR case-study profiles are of only eleven of the thousands, tens of thousands, of innocent men picked up and tortured as part of Bush’s war on terror. These men were never charged, tried or convicted of any crime, but were systematically tortured before being quietly released. Whether this policy continues under Obama’s doomed military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan is an open question.

* * *

The PHR report is one drip in a slowing mounting torrent of revelation about torture and other crimes committed as part of Bush’s war on terror. Other important revelations “drips” about the treatment of alleged enemy combatants are:

· International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report, “The Treatment of Fourteen ‘High-Value Detainees’ in CIA Custody

· U.S. Senate Armed Service Committee report, “Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody

· Major General Antonio Taguba report on Abu Ghraib prisoners, “Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade

· Major General George Fay report on Abu Ghraib (co-authored by Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones), “AR 15-6 Investigation of the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility and 205th Military Intelligence Brigade

In addition, there have been many reports by the Associated Press, newspapers and magazines around the world. This growing body of evidence of war crimes with a particularly sexual character has been discussed in “Sexual Torture: What is Acknowledged and What Remains Unknown,” CounterPunch, May 15-17, 2009 and “Sexual Terrorism: The Sadistic Side of Bush’s War on Terror,” CounterPunch, May 13, 2008.

One can only hope that the next study of torture as an instrument of the war on terror will focus on the perpetrators, not the victims. The actions by these men and women, U.S. military personnel, intelligence operatives and private mercenaries, reveals the sadomasochism of power that defines the American political-military state and, by extension, state and local juridical-police power.

The rationalization of state sadism to fight “terrorism” or “crime” serves to cultivate a mass-psychology of fascism, the rise of a police state. Only by exposing the pathology of power that drove Bush’s global war on terror will we be able to contain the Brzezinski wing of the Obama military-industry complex that defines not only foreign policy but human rights, and thus the legitimization of the torture of innocent people in the name of a war or terror or democracy.

DAVID ROSEN is the author of “Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming” (Key, 2009); he can be reached at drosen@ix.netcom.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

February 22, 2018
Jeffrey Sommers
Bond Villain in the World Economy: Latvia’s Offshore Banking Sector
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
T.J. Coles
How the US Bullies North Korea, 1945-Present
Ipek S. Burnett
Rethinking Freedom in the Era of Mass Shootings
Manuel E. Yepe
Fire and Fury: More Than a Publishing Hit
Patrick Bobilin
Caught in a Trap: Being a Latino Democrat is Being in an Abusive Relationship
Laurel Krause
From Kent State to Parkland High: Will America Ever Learn?
Terry Simons
Congress and the AR-15: One NRA Stooge Too Many
George Wuerthner
Border Wall Delusions
Manuel García, Jr.
The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change
Thomas Knapp
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail