'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Children of Abu Ghraib Redux 

Well, this story seems to be catching on a little -- at least in the blogosphere. Seymour Hersh just made some allegations in an ACLU speech that are about the worst thing one can imagine. I think Salon's War Room blog has the best post up about the "new" Hersh story. Here's their transcription of Hersh's statement to the ACLU:

Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

It's impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers and so we're dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will. We will. You know there's enough out there, they can't (Applause). .... So it's going to be an interesting election year

I put "new" in quotes above because once again this story isn't really anything we haven't already heard. While Hersh's description is more graphic the claim was already made in MSNBC's coverage of Rumsfeld's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Here's part of the transcript:

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The swearing in that opened the hearing, signaled the gravity of what was about to unfold. In his opening statement, Secretary Rumsfeld, for the first time, apologized and offered compensation to Iraqis who had been abused.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: To those Iraqis who were mistreated by member of the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apology.

MIKLASZEWSKI: Rumsfeld then dropped a bomb, revealing that there were more photos, even videos depicting abuses far worse than what has been seen so far.

RUMSFELD: There are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman.

MIKLASZEWSKI: U.S. military officials tell NBC News, the unreleased images, show American soldiers severely beating one Iraqi prisoner to near death; apparently, raping an Iraqi female prisoner; acting inappropriately with a dead body; and Iraqi guards apparently videotaped by U.S. soldiers raping young boys.

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: We‘re talking about rape and murder here, we‘re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience, we‘re talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges.

Look, given that this is an old story, it's pretty clear the bigtime US press isn't planning on putting it in the spotlight. Numerous blog commenters ask why this isn't a bigger story and I think the obvious answer is correct -- it isn't a bigger story because the videotapes haven't made it to journalists. It's a catch-22 situation: the government will never release those tapes without someone lighting a major fire under its ass and the press isn't interested in lighting any fires without having its hands on the tapes. Does anyone know, could the tapes be obtained via the Freedom of Information Act?

In other children of Abu Ghraib-related news, I hadn't noticed, but the source of the sixteen-yearold-boy-abused-and-beaten-to-break-his-father story in the German TV piece, Sergeant Samuel J. Provance III, is the original Abu Ghraib whistle-blower who might face a court-martial for breaking a hush order by coming forward. Here's an excerpt from the Boston Globe:

Sergeant Samuel J. Provance III began his Army career as a brush-cut idealist determined to join the Special Forces. He ended up in a military intelligence unit assigned to Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, where he heard stories about US soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees.

The 30-year-old Pennsylvania native said he grew troubled that prisoners were harassed, ridiculed, stripped naked, and beaten. He spoke out to military investigators and last month stunned the Army when he disobeyed an order and became the first military intelligence soldier to discuss the abuse with newspapers and television stations.

Provance said he broke ranks because he believed the military was trying to cover up the scandal. Now, as the story shifts away from him, his experience is quietly turning into a cautionary tale about the price of becoming a whistle-blower. Fellow soldiers avoid him. His security clearance has been yanked. And there's a possibility that Provance, who once studied to be a minister, could end his Army days in disgrace with a court-martial.

Court-martialing Provance for what he did will be heaping a travesty on an atrocity, but I guess they can always blame the travesty on a few bad apples in the military justice system...

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