video and digital cameras.
If not for
the availability of these electronic devices, it is possible
the world would have never viewed -- to its collective
disgust -- the images of the hideous events that took place
in the murky depths of the Abu Ghraib military prison.
to say US Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski -- who commanded the
800th Military Police Brigade in Baghdad and
will likely be held responsible for what happened inside
Abu Ghraib -- regrets such devices ever existed.
It is not
simply a proliferation of cheap electronic cameras that
revealed how US military and intelligence officers and
agents work over detainees, but a secret US Army internal
investigation report leaked to the New Yorker and handed
over to ace investigative journalist
Seymour Hersh played an important role as well.
to the author of the report, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba,
reservist military police at Abu Ghraib were instructed by
Army military officers and the CIA to
"set physical and mental conditions for favorable
interrogation of witnesses" -- in other words they were
to be tortured until they were reduced to well-disposed
As we now
understand, it was not simply the military and the CIA that
were involved in the torture at Abu Ghraib -- so-called
interrogation specialists from private defense contractors
were hired to humiliate and break detainees identified by
Hersh as common criminals, security detainees suspected of
crimes against the occupation, and a small number of
suspected high-value leaders of the resistance against the
Hersh's explosive revelations,
the Guardian filled in conspicuous gaps and reported
companies contracted at Abu Ghraib include CACI
International and the Titan Corporation. CACI's website
claims its mission is to "help America's intelligence
community collect, analyze and share global information in
the war on terrorism." Titan describes itself as "a leading
provider of comprehensive information and communications
products, solutions and services for national security."
Borger of the Guardian points out, the military and the CIA
may be using private "security" and "national security"
corporations because they are not under military
jurisdiction. "One civilian contractor was accused of raping
a young male prisoner but has not been charged because
military law has no jurisdiction over him," writes Borger.
the CIA has used torture by proxy for decades.
an example the CIA's activities in Guatemala. "In March
1995, it was revealed that CIA Guatemalan assets were
involved in the murders of American citizen Michael Devine
and Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, a guerrilla leader married to
an American woman, Jennifer Harbury,"
writes Jon Elliston. Harbury and Sister Diana Ortiz --
an American nun kidnapped, raped, and tortured by Guatemalan
security forces in 1989 -- managed to gain Clinton White
House assurances that the CIA's involvement in Guatemala
would be made public.
Allan Nairn discovered, the CIA had "systematic links to
Guatemalan Army death squad operations that go far beyond
the disclosures" made public by the Clinton administration.
Nairn interviewed former officials from the United States
and Guatemala who revealed that "CIA operatives work inside
a Guatemalan Army unit that maintains a network of torture
centers and has killed thousands of Guatemalan civilians."
U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency official in Guatemala told
Nairn the involvement was so extensive that "it would be an
embarrassing situation if you ever had a roll call of
everybody in the Guatemalan Army who ever collected a CIA
1995, Baltimore Sun reporters Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson
revealed the CIA's close involvement with a Honduran
military intelligence unit, Battalion 316. As Cohn and
Thompson reported, the CIA worked with Argentine military
experts that had a decade of experience torturing and
killing dissidents. The CIA and Argentine thugs instructed
and guided Battalion 316 in surveillance and interrogation
in much the same way the CIA and the Pentagon's MI
apparently instructed "contractors" from CACI International
and the Titan Corporation at Abu Ghraib in the torture of
to Honduras and Guatemala, the CIA has instructed torturers
and assisted in overthrowing governments in Chile, Bolivia,
Uruguay, Greece, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, El
Salvador, Brazil, Ecuador, Congo, Haiti, Laos, Iran, and
elsewhere. Noriega, Galtieri, Pinochet, Rodriguez, Fujimori,
and Alvarado -- these are but a few of the murderous
dictators tutored by the CIA. Both the Taliban and al-Qaeda
are creations of the CIA. According to the Association for
Responsible Dissent, by 1987, 6 million people had died as a
result of CIA covert operations. William Blum, a former
State Department official and historian, terms this an
to 'unleash' the CIA to perpetrate political assassinations,
torture and a string of human rights violations,"
writes Raymond Ker of Middle East News, "['P]hysical
interrogation' (read: torture) is recommended by the
venerable Newsweek magazine; and George W Bush orders the
institution of military tribunals for suspected terrorists
in camera and without a jury."
this is what happened at Abu Ghraib -- the
CIA and military intelligence were "unleashed" on those
in the Iraqi resistance (or simply suspected of being
associated with the Iraqi resistance or maybe insulting
viceroy Bremer's intelligence).
provided the CIA with a custom-made excuse to continue its
gratuitous use of torture, either directly or through proxy.
After the Senate Intelligence Committee conducted hearings
on terrorism in December 2002, several
CIA officers told Alasdair Palmer of the UK Telegraph
that "they were in no doubt about what they would have to
do: they would have to torture people ... The unanimity in
American law-enforcement circles is striking. Torture is no
longer simply a topic for debate. The debate has been won."
Bagram air force base in Afghanistan, this debate is ancient
history -- and there is absolutely no worry about human
rights or the Geneva Convention as it pertains to prisoners
of war. As the
Washington Post reported in December 2002, the CIA
routinely tortured al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects at Bagram
-- interrogations resulting in at least two deaths.
Black, the former director of the CIA's counter-terrorist
branch, told a congressional intelligence committee at the
time: "All you need to know: there was a before 9/11, and
there was an after 9/11... After 9/11 the gloves come off."
to US officials responsible for capturing and detaining
terrorist suspects, the only problem with torture is that
the CIA was prevented from using it by fence-straddling
lawmakers and a public without stomach. "If you don't
violate someone's human rights some of the time, you
probably aren't doing your job," an official told the
year the Sunday Times reported the
CIA was actively recruiting former agents from Saddam
Hussein's notorious security force, Mukhabarat. Mohammed
Abdullah, who had spent 10 years in the Mukhabarat and eight
in Iraqi military intelligence, told the Sunday Times he was
on the CIA's payroll -- hired to hunt down members of the
resistance as well as Iraqis allegedly spying for Iran and
Syria. "If successfully set up, the group would work in
tandem with American forces but would have its own structure
and relative independence," an anonymous intelligence
officer told the Times. "It could be expected to be fairly
ruthless in dealing with the remnants of Saddam." It does
not seem to matter to the CIA or Bush, however, that many
former members of Mukhabarat remain Saddam loyalists.
the above, a pattern begins to emerge: the CIA runs the
counterinsurgency effort in Iraq, from directing Mukhabarat
in the field -- rounding up resistance fighters and their
supporters -- to overseeing the operations of mercenaries
(many recruited from Chilean and South African military
services) and directing "interrogations" conducted by
private companies such as CACI International, the Titan
Corporation, and defense contractors.
individual soldiers are under investigation for abusing
Iraqi detainees -- and Hersh names them in his article --
there is no mention of the CIA, military intelligence, or
private corporations (this information was provided by
Jullian Borger of the Guardian, a British newspaper). As
usual in such situations, lowly scapegoats will be
sacrificed -- careers ruined, pensions lost -- and the real
culprits will fade into the background, allowed to continue
their repulsive work.
May 2, Fox News and CNN were strangely mute about the
scandal, although the European and Arab press continued to
publish accounts of the torture. Of course, considering
another CIA Operation -- innocuously dubbed Operation
Mockingbird -- this should be expected. As far back as the
late 1940s, the CIA recruited US news organizations and
individual journalists as disseminators of CIA propaganda.
All told, at least 25 news organizations and 400 journalists
became helpmates for the mega-snoop organization.
Iraqis finding such behavior deeply offensive --
especially the pornographic aspects at odds with Arab
culture -- the wholesale depravity of Abu Ghraib will serve
yet more inspiration to resist the occupation and
eventually get rid of Bush, the CIA, and their hired
sadists. Fox News and CNN may choose to allow Abu Ghraib to
drop from the media radar screen and move on to more
superficial and politically disengaged news items, but in
the Arab world the damage has been done and it has momentous
On the day
the US leaves Iraq in disgrace, even Fox News will not be
able to ignore helicopters departing from the roof of the US
embassy in Baghdad.
is a photographer, multimedia artist and writer living in
New Mexico. He is author of
Another Day in the Empire: Life in Neoconservative America
(Dandelion Books, 2003). To see his photo work and read more
of his essays, visit his excellent “Another
Day in the Empire” weblog.