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Why Iraq is Becoming More Like Vietnam Every Day

Will the Torture at Abu Ghraib (Finally) Open Americans' Eyes?
Why Iraq is Becoming More Like Vietnam Every Day

by Maureen Farrell at
May 11, 2004

"The reports have been emerging only slowly, but they are chilling. American intelligence agents have been torturing terrorist suspects, or engaging in practices pretty close to torture." -- The Economist, Jan. 11, 2003

"The unreleased images show American soldiers beating one prisoner almost to death, apparently raping a female prisoner, acting inappropriately with a dead body, and taping Iraqi guards raping young boys, according to NBC News." – The Boston Herald, May 8, 2004

"Because we acted, torture rooms are closed, rape rooms no longer exist, mass graves are no longer a possibility in Iraq." -- President Bush, at an event in Michigan, May 3, 2004

* * *

In December, 2002, the Washington Post ran back-to-back articles on America’s alleged use of torture to interrogate detainees at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Describing allegations that captives were often "softened up" by less than legal means, the Post explained: "The picture that emerges is of a brass-knuckled quest for information, often in concert with allies of dubious human rights reputation, in which the traditional lines between right and wrong, legal and inhumane, are evolving and blurred." Or, as one official bluntly put it: "If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job." [Washington Post]

The next day, in an op-ed entitled "Torture Is Not An Option," the Post explained: "There are certain things democracies don't do, even under duress, and torture is high on the list . . . The critical first step is for the administration to clarify what [interrogation] tactics it is using and which are still off limits. If administration officials have decided that moderate physical pressure -- once an abuse -- is now to be the norm in terrorism cases, the American people ought to know. . .It shouldn't be the administration's unilateral call." [Washington Post]

Months later, in June, 2003, President Bush attempted to ease concerns. "I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture. And we are leading this fight by example," he said. Yet, as we all now know, the U.S. has not exactly been a role model. And, as the legendary journalist Seymour Hersh has said, the torture at Abu Ghraib was the result of a "decision made somewhere up high up in the line." "This is such a deep problem," Hersh said during a May 3, 2004 PBS interview. "The problems began in Afghanistan. . . what you're seeing is the result of a decision made somewhere up high up in the line that we're going to turn our prisons essentially into all of them into Guantanamos." [PBS]

In the meantime, according to a report by Joe Conason, senior officers in the military's legal division, the Judge Advocate General [JAG] Corps, sought out prominent New York attorney Scott Horton and expressed concerns over the military's detention and interrogation procedures. Specifically, they charged that Douglas J. Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, had "significantly weakened the military's rules and regulations governing prisoners of war" and, along with Defense Department's general counsel, William J. Haynes II, was "creating ‘an atmosphere of legal ambiguity’ that would allow mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan." []

Whether or not all roads lead to the DOD, Hersh says that the CIA and private contractors were "directly and indirectly responsible for everything that happened inside that prison." Referring to the now famous 53 page report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, he told Hardball's Chris Matthews that the Taguba report "suggests that we have a systematic problem inside the military, that it's not just a question of a few kids doing one or two acts that were photographed. It suggests that this is widespread."


Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.

© Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell

© Scoop Media

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