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Friday, September 30, 2005 

Apocalypse Retro

Iraq has become the new Vietnam. Anyone still in denial of this harsh reality is, quite frankly, living in cloud-cuckoo land. Apart from the continuing deaths and maiming of countless Iraqis, Americans and others, the US is steadily re-establishing the same reputation for atrocity it had last time round, in South-East Asia.

This is (to put it mildly) not making the world a better place, nor does it make America safer. Instead, it has provided a valuable source of recruits and blooding for associates of Al Qaeda, as well as inflaming hatred of the US among those not otherwise receptive to Osama bin Laden's words. The Pentagon and US Army will go on assuring us that victory is just around the corner till kingdom come, but no-one's going to believe them if things continue as they have been. A pro-US Western-style democracy - the presumed point of all this - isn't likely to be the end result at this point, which leads us back to John Kerry's famous question: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?".

Those paying close attention at the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal breaking last year will recall that only a handful of the photos were shown to the world, the rest being deemed too horrific by the American government to be put before the world. Well, the worst are now going to be released.
"What is shown on the 87 photographs and four videos from Abu Ghraib prison that the Pentagon has blocked from release? One clue: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images, "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe." They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he added.


A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of "rape and murder." Rumsfeld then commented, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse.


The photos were among thousands turned over by the key "whistleblower" in the scandal, Specialist Joseph M. Darby. Just a few that were released to the press sparked the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal last year, and the video images are said to be even more shocking.

[...]

"'The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience,' Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters after Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. 'We're talking about rape and murder -- and some very serious charges.'


"A report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba on the abuse at the prison outside Baghdad says videotapes and photographs show naked detainees, and that groups of men were forced to masturbate while being photographed and videotaped. Taguba also found evidence of a 'male MP guard having sex with a female detainee.'


"Rumsfeld told Congress the unrevealed photos and videos contain acts 'that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman.'"


The military later screened some of the images for lawmakers, who said they showed, among other things, attack dogs snarling at cowed prisoners, Iraqi women forced to expose their breasts, and naked prisoners forced to have sex with each other.


In the same period, reporter Seymour Hersh, who helped uncover the scandal, said in a speech before an ACLU convention: "Some of the worse that happened that you don't know about, ok? Videos, there are women there. Some of you may have read they were passing letters, communications out to their men ... . The women were passing messages saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened.'


"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. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror it's going to come out." "
Before the usual apologists over here crank up the reliable A Few Bad Apples excuse, they could perhaps explain this to us (via Crooked Timber):
"As it happens, I was in Germany in the spring of 2004 at roughly the same time that MG Fay was there interviewing soldiers and officers with V Corps MI units. Having some contacts with these units, I took the time to speak to a number of NCOs and officers to get a sense of just how Fay was conducting his investigation. What I heard was consistent and very disturbing. Fay repeatedly warned soldiers that if they were involved in incidents, they would be put up on charges. And if they had seen things and not reported them, they would be up on charges. Then he asked if the soldiers had anything to report. One soldier told me that when he began to describe an incident to Fay, he was stopped and told “Son, you don’t want to go there.” This process was constructed to stop soldiers from coming forward with evidence about what had happened—the opposite of a fair or critical inquiry. But I stress that among the twelve investigations conducted, the Fay/Jones report was one of the best. One wonders what it would have netted had proper investigatory technique been used."
Or, how about this gallery of horrors (via AMERICAblog)? And, courtesy of the New York Times, a new term is about to enter the lexicon of horrors from the US war in Iraq: PUC. As in, apparently;
"Soldiers referred to abusive techniques as “smoking” or “fucking” detainees, who are known as “PUCs,” or Persons Under Control. “Smoking a PUC” referred to exhausting detainees with physical exercises (sometimes to the point of unconsciousness) or forcing detainees to hold painful positions. “Fucking a PUC” detainees referred to beating or torturing them severely. The soldiers said that Military Intelligence personnel regularly instructed soldiers to “smoke” detainees before interrogations.

One sergeant told Human Rights Watch: “Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport… One day [a sergeant] shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy’s leg with a mini Louisville Slugger, a metal bat.” "

Eamonn Fitzgerald opines loftily that this is a "low, dishonest decade". He's right, but not about who's being dishonest. His fellow Hitchens-the-liar enthusiast, US ex-pat journo Dick Delevan, provides the example in this tripe, from a piece entitled "IRAQ: The Only Way Out is Through":
"It is terrible to see what's happening on the ground. But "cut and run" -- in Lebanon in 1983, in Somalia ten years later, all the way back to the limp-wristed US response to the Tehran hostage crisis in 1979 -- is in large measure what got us into this mess in the first place. It may prove necessary in the end, but the stakes are still enormous -- and the doomsayers are eager to avoid any whisper of Afghanistan."

I somehow doubt that Iraqis would share Mr. Delevan's enthusiasm for their sacrifice on the altar of policies set by a faraway Western Christian superpower. The refusal to face the reality of an 'unwinnable' (at least, as the Bush administration originally intended it) situation is what led to these kind of casualties. Must we forget the lessons of the past?

(Note: post-edited a little for too much verbosity.)

"Libel"-Richard Waghorne
"Attack blog"-Damien Mulley

About me

  • An early-thirties male Irish technologist living and working in Dublin, I'm a former (recovering) member of both Fianna Fáil and the Roman Catholic Church.

    I'm not a member of any political party these days, but my opinions can be broadly categorised as 'lefty' and republican. I am also a former member of the Irish Defence Forces.

    Please feel free to check out the FI Fie Foe Fum group blog, where I was once a regular contributor, and the Cedar Lounge Revolution, where I can usually be found in the comments.

    (This blog and its contents reflect only my own personal opinions as a private citizen, and not those of any other person or organisation.)

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