Thursday, February 16, 2006


There is no excuse - ever - for treating anyone in such a way they lose their dignity. There is no excuse - ever - for torture (not even in the Jack Bauer ticking bomb kind of way). What happened at Abu Ghraib is reprehensible and contemptible. Those responsible should be subject to full military justice. As Hak Mao says
Military law is different from civilian law and applies in particular circumstances - it follows that the application of military justice should be just as particular - regardless of the rank or status of the guilty. There is no room here for the Nuremberg defence or slimy moral relativism.
The prison has a long history of being a major hell hole. Here's a report of Abu Ghraib under Hussein
The facility occupies 280 acres with over 4 kilometers of security perimeter and 24 guard towers. The prison is composed of five distinct compound each surrounded by guard towers and high walls. Built by British contractors in the 1960s, Abu Ghraib is a virtual city within a city. The political section of Abu Ghraib was divided into "open" and "closed" wings. The closed wing housed only Shi'ites. The open wing held all other varieties of real or suspected activists. The "closed" wing was so named because its inmates -- at least until 1989 -- were permitted no visitors or outside contact. Cells measured approximately four meters by four meters and held an average of 40 persons.

As of 2001 Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, may have held as many as 15,000 persons, many of who were subject to torture. Hundreds of Fayli (Shi'a) Kurds and other citizens of Iranian origin, who had disappeared in the early 1980's during the Iran-Iraq war, reportedly were being held incommunicado at the Abu Ghurayb prison. Such persons have been detained without charge for close to 2 decades in extremely harsh conditions. Many of the detainees were used as subjects in the country's outlawed experimental chemical and biological weapons programs.
Here's an account from Seymour Hersh
In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions. As many as fifty thousand men and women—no accurate count is possible—were jammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more than human holding pits.

In the looting that followed the regime’s collapse, last April, the huge prison complex, by then deserted, was stripped of everything that could be removed, including doors, windows, and bricks. The coalition authorities had the floors tiled, cells cleaned and repaired, and toilets, showers, and a new medical center added. Abu Ghraib was now a U.S. military prison. Most of the prisoners, however—by the fall there were several thousand, including women and teen-agers—were civilians, many of whom had been picked up in random military sweeps and at highway checkpoints. They fell into three loosely defined categories: common criminals; security detainees suspected of “crimes against the coalition”; and a small number of suspected “high-value” leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.
When Iraq starts to approach normality Abu Ghraib should be razed and a memorial park built in its place. It should be a place for reconciliation, reflection and kite flying.

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