In the Guardian: The 5th anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal

28.4.09

For the Guardian’s Comment is free, “Images that exposed the truth on abuse” is an article I wrote marking the 5th anniversary of the broadcast, on CBS News’ 60 Minutes II, of the first photos revealing the abuse of detainees — or, indeed, what the International Committee of the Red Cross described as treatment “that in some cases might amount to torture” — in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

I’ve taken the opportunity offered by this bleak anniversary to note how the Abu Ghraib photos still demonstrate, sadly, that pictures speak louder then words, and to lament that, after five years, we are still waiting for those who authorized the torture and abuse of prisoners — and in one case, a death that prompted the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer to ask, “Can the CIA legally kill a prisoner?” — to be held accountable.

I am, however, reassured that the publication last week of the Senate Armed Services Committee report into detainee abuse (PDF) prompted chairman Carl Levin to state that the report was a “condemnation” of senior administration officials who “attempted to shift the blame for abuse such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan to low-ranking soldiers,” and, while remaining somewhat ambivalent about the extent to which serving soldiers should be prosecuted for following orders (even if that led to creative acts of sadism that shock the conscience), maintain that senior officials must now be investigated — preferably, I should add, by an independent prosecutor.

[Photo of Lyndie England with a prisoner on a leash removed following Google AdSense complaint about a “violation,” July 15, 2016. Have these people got nothing better to do? They are censoring photographic evidence of torture by US forces while claiming it is to protect Google’s users — from what? the truth? Sometimes the truth hurts, but it doesn’t mean it should be shied away from.]

If not, the imminent release of more photos — of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan, and elsewhere in Iraq — will almost certainly set off tremors of disgust that will test support for President Obama in the Muslim world, and will further challenge the resolve of those, in the United States and other Western countries, who believed that Obama represented “Change We Can Believe In.”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (it’s free), and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For other articles on Abu Ghraib, see Remember Abu Ghraib? (a review of Mark Danner’s Torture and Truth), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib, and Film Review: Standard Operating Procedure (a review of Errol Morris’ challenging documentary about the scandal). And for other articles on Iraq, see Book Review: Road From Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejía, and Iraq’s refugees in Syria: Mike Otterman reports.

3 Responses

  1. Frances Madeson says...

    It’s hard to understand how AG Holder can possibly ignore a quarter of a million signatures. The release of the 2,000 pictures should seal the deal. I’m not kicking back, and I know you won’t either, but anyone can see which way the wind is blowing. In the meanwhile, for an exercise in sheer brilliant audacity, read or re-read the fearless and much-missed Susan Sontag’s essay on the original photos.
    http://donswaim.com/nytimes.sontag.html

  2. Connie L. Nash says...

    Thanx, Frances, for the reminder of Susan Sontag’s brilliantly cogent – insightful work! Did I miss an email U sent me on Aafia?

  3. The 5th anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] of the Abu Ghraib scandal by Andy Worthington Posted on April 28, 2009 by dandelionsalad by Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad http://www.andyworthington.co.uk Originally posted at the Guardian 28 […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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