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

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Children of Abu Ghraib 

Well, the story of the moment is that according to the German TV magazine Report Mainz, which cites two sources who are corroborated to some degree by a recent UNICEF report, the US is routinely abusing children and young teenagers in the Iraqi prison system. In particular the segment recounts the story of a 16 year old boy who was abused to break his father and of a Al-Jazeera reporter who, while interned himself, witnessed the abuse of a 12 year old girl. So far several left blogs have covered this story and linked to the German expose including Tom Tomorrow, Sadly, No (which has the best English translation I've seen), and The Agonist. WhatReallyHappened.com posted a good English summary of the German article: here it is on the Bellaciao collective's site, where it is formatted better than at WhatReallyHappened.

While I'm glad that the German expose is getting some play in the US albeit on blogs, I'd just like to point out that virtually none of the allegations made by Report Mainz are new. From the very beginning of the Abu Ghraib scandal Sy Hersh was saying things like

First of all, it's going to get much worse. This kind of stuff was much more widespread. I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there. There are many more photos even inside that unit. There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national television that was done. There was a lot of problems.

There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse. And the Maj. Gen. Taguba was very tough about it. He said this place was riddled with violent, awful actions against prisoners.

He said the above on the O'Reilly Factor in early May. Such statements should have indicated to any reporter who cared to investigate that there is a children's section of Iraq's prison system. Furthermore, the two shocking specific examples of abuse in the German report have already been covered in various English language publications and news outlets.

The story of the 16 year old boy who was tortured in order to break his father has been around for a while. Here is an excerpt from a Chicago Tribune story from May:

A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators.

The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.

The "military intelligence analyst" cited above is probably the same source used by Report Mainz, Samuel Provance.

The story about the 12 year old girl was never publicized by such a major US news source as the Chicago Tribune but it did appear internationally. Here's an excerpt from an account that appeared on the website of ITV, the biggest commercial TV station in the UK:

The US military has said it will investigate claims by a former inmate of Abu Ghraib prison that a girl as young as 12 was stripped and beaten by military personnel.

Suhaib al-Baz, a journalist for the al-Jazeera television network, claims to have been tortured at the prison, based west of Baghdad, while held there for 54 days.

Mr al-Baz was arrested when reporting clashes between insurgents and coalition forces in November.

He said: "They brought a 12-year-old girl into our cellblock late at night. Her brother was a prisoner in the other cells.

"She was naked and screaming and calling out to him as they beat her. Her brother was helpless and could only hear her cries. This affected all of us because she was just a child.

Although the story of the 12 year old girl never broke in the mainstream US media, its primary source, Al Jazeera reporter and former Abu Ghraib inmate, Suhaib al-Baz, was interviewed extensively by Salon, wherein he mentions the abuse of another father and son:

From his cell, al Baz said he watched through the small window and saw two men stripped naked. "The boy was only about 16 years old, and then a soldier poured cold water over them. Their cell was directly across from mine." Al Baz says that the father and son were made to stand naked in front of other prisoners for days.

There are many other stories like these in the public discourse if one cares to look. Knight-Ridder reports of "a 14-year-old Iraqi with a broken arm being hurled to the ground and then mocked by U.S. soldiers as the boy wept and wet himself" and the Independent wrote of a sixteen year old boy who was subjected to a mock execution, for example.

Such stories are obviously the tip of the iceberg and clearly hint at the existence of the "children's camp" that Mr al-Baz saw with his own eyes:

There I saw a camp for kids, young, certainly not yet of puberty age. There must have been hundreds of kids. Some were released, others are certainly still there." --Suhaib Badr-Addin Al-Baz, as translated from German by Sadly, No

These atrocities have gone on too long and have got to stop. German TV shouldn't have to do the work that the American media should be doing. We need to pressure our media to publicize what is being done in our name. Where is the American expose? Hey reporters, it's easy pickings ... the facts are all there ... you just need Google and a tiny bit of goddam courage. Doesn't Sy Hersh want a hat trick?

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