Rape And Torture Rooms
By Seymour M.
10 May, 2004
his devastating report on conditions at Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq,
Major General Antonio M. Taguba singled out only three military men
for praise. One of them, Master-at-Arms William J. Kimbro, a Navy dog
handler, should be commended, Taguba wrote, because he knew his
duties and refused to participate in improper interrogations despite
significant pressure from the MImilitary intelligencepersonnel
at Abu Ghraib. Elsewhere in the report it became clear what Kimbro
would not do: American soldiers, Taguba said, used military working
dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and
in one instance actually biting a detainee.
was triggered by a soldiers decision to give Army investigators
photographs of the sexual humiliation and abuse of prisoners. These
images were first broadcast on 60 Minutes II on April 28th.
Seven enlisted members of the 372nd Military Police Company of the 320th
Military Police Battalion, an Army reserve unit, are now facing prosecution,
and six officers have been reprimanded. Last week, I was given another
set of digital photographs, which had been in the possession of a member
of the 320th. According to a time sequence embedded in the digital files,
the photographs were taken by two different cameras over a twelve-minute
period on the evening of December 12, 2003, two months after the military-police
unit was assigned to Abu Ghraib.
One of the new photographs
shows a young soldier, wearing a dark jacket over his uniform and smiling
into the camera, in the corridor of the jail. In the background are
two Army dog handlers, in full camouflage combat gear, restraining two
German shepherds. The dogs are barking at a man who is partly obscured
from the cameras view by the smiling soldier. Another image shows
that the man, an Iraqi prisoner, is naked.
images of the torture of Iraqi prisoners
His hands are clasped
behind his neck and he is leaning against the door to a cell, contorted
with terror, as the dogs bark a few feet away. Other photographs show
the dogs straining at their leashes and snarling at the prisoner. In
another, taken a few minutes later, the Iraqi is lying on the ground,
writhing in pain, with a soldier sitting on top of him, knee pressed
to his back. Blood is streaming from the inmates leg. Another
photograph is a closeup of the naked prisoner, from his waist to his
ankles, lying on the floor. On his right thigh is what appears to be
a bite or a deep scratch. There is another, larger wound on his left
leg, covered in blood.
There is at least
one other report of violence involving American soldiers, an Army dog,
and Iraqi citizens, but it was not in Abu Ghraib. Cliff Kindy, a member
of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a church-supported group that has
been monitoring the situation in Iraq, told me that last November G.I.s
unleashed a military dog on a group of civilians during a sweep in Ramadi,
about thirty miles west of Fallujah. At first, Kindy told me, the
soldiers went house to house, and arrested thirty people. (One
of them was Saad al-Khashab, an attorney with the Organization for Human
Rights in Iraq, who told Kindy about the incident.) While the thirty
detainees were being handcuffed and laid on the ground, a firefight
broke out nearby; when it ended, the Iraqis were shoved into a house.
Khashab told Kindy that the American soldiers then turned the
dog loose inside the house, and several people were bitten. (The
Defense Department said that it was unable to comment about the incident
before The New Yorker went to press.)
When I asked retired
Major General Charles Hines, who was commandant of the Armys military-police
school during a twenty-eight-year career in military law enforcement,
about these reports, he reacted with dismay. Turning a dog loose
in a room of people? Loosing dogs on prisoners of war? Ive never
heard of it, and it would never have been tolerated, Hines said.
He added that trained police dogs have long been a presence in Army
prisons, where they are used for sniffing out narcotics and other contraband
among the prisoners, and, occasionally, for riot control. But, he said,
I would never have authorized it for interrogating or coercing
prisoners. If I had, Id have been put in jail or kicked out of
Red Cross and human-rights groups have repeatedly complained during
the past year about the American militarys treatment of Iraqi
prisoners, with little success. In one case, disclosed last month by
the Denver Post, three Army soldiers from a military-intelligence battalion
were accused of assaulting a female Iraqi inmate at Abu Ghraib. After
an administrative review, the three were fined at least five hundred
dollars and demoted in rank, the newspaper said.
had a different response when, on January 13th, a military policeman
presented Army investigators with a computer disk containing graphic
photographs. The images were being swapped from computer to computer
throughout the 320th Battalion. The Armys senior commanders immediately
understood they had a problema looming political and public-relations
disaster that would taint America and damage the war effort.
One of the first
soldiers to be questioned was Ivan Frederick, the M.P. sergeant who
was in charge of a night shift at Abu Ghraib. Frederick, who has been
ordered to face a court-martial in Iraq for his role in the abuse, kept
a running diary that began with a knock on his door by agents of the
Armys Criminal Investigations Division (C.I.D.) at two-thirty
in the morning on January 14th. I was escorted . . . to the front
door of our building, out of sight from my room, Frederick wrote,
while . . . two unidentified males stayed in my room. Are
they searching my room? He was told yes. Frederick later
formally agreed to permit the agents to search for cameras, computers,
and storage devices.
On January 16th,
three days after the Army received the pictures, Central Command issued
a blandly worded, five-sentence press release about an investigation
into the mistreatment of prisoners. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
said last week that it was then that he learned of the allegations.
At some point soon afterward, Rumsfeld informed President Bush. On January
19th, Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the officer in charge of
American forces in Iraq, ordered a secret investigation into Abu Ghraib.
Two weeks later, General Taguba was ordered to conduct his inquiry.
He submitted his report on February 26th. By then, according to testimony
before the Senate last week by General Richard Myers, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, people inside our building had discussed
the photographs. Myers, by his own account, had still not read the Taguba
report or seen the photographs, yet he knew enough about the abuses
to persuade 60 Minutes II to delay its story.
At a Pentagon news
conference last week, Rumsfeld and Marine General Peter Pace, the Vice-Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted that the investigation into Abu
Ghraib had moved routinely through the chain of command. If the Army
had been slow, it was because of built-in safeguards. Pace told the
journalists, Its important to know that as investigations
are completed they come up the chain of command in a very systematic
way. So that the individual who reports in writing [sends it] up to
the next level commander. But he or she takes time, a week or two weeks,
three weeks, whatever it takes, to read all of the documentation, get
legal advice [and] make the decisions that are appropriate at his or
her level. . . . That way everyones rights are protected and we
have the opportunity systematically to take a look at the entire process.
In interviews, however,
retired and active-duty officers and Pentagon officials said that the
system had not worked. Knowledge of the nature of the abusesand
especially the politically toxic photographshad been severely,
and unusually, restricted. Everybody Ive talked to said,
We just didnt knownot even in the J.C.S.,
one well-informed former intelligence official told me, emphasizing
that he was referring to senior officials with whom such allegations
would normally be shared. I havent talked to anybody on
the inside who knewnowhere. Its got them scratching their
heads. A senior Pentagon official said that many of the senior
generals in the Army were similarly out of the loop on the Abu Ghraib
Within the Pentagon,
there was a spate of fingerpointing last week. One top general complained
to a colleague that the commanders in Iraq should have taken C4, a powerful
explosive, and blown up Abu Ghraib last spring, with all of its emotional
baggagethe prison was known for its brutality under Saddam
Husseininstead of turning it into an American facility. This
is beyond the pale in terms of lack of command attention, a retired
major general told me, speaking of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Where
were the flag officers? And Im not just talking about a one-star,
he added, referring to Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the commander
at Abu Ghraib who was relieved of duty. This was a huge leadership
The Pentagon official
told me that many senior generals believe that, along with the civilians
in Rumsfelds office, General Sanchez and General John Abizaid,
who is in charge of the Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, had done
their best to keep the issue quiet in the first months of the year.
The official chain of command flows from General Sanchez, in Iraq, to
Abizaid, and on to Rumsfeld and President Bush. Youve got
to match action, or nonaction, with interests, the Pentagon official
said. What is the motive for not being forthcoming? They foresaw
major diplomatic problems.
Secrecy and wishful
thinking, the Pentagon official said, are defining characteristics of
Rumsfelds Pentagon, and shaped its response to the reports from
Abu Ghraib. They always want to delay the release of bad newsin
the hope that something good will break, he said. The habit of
procrastination in the face of bad news led to disconnects between Rumsfeld
and the Army staff officers who were assigned to planning for troop
requirements in Iraq. A year ago, the Pentagon official told me, when
it became clear that the Army would have to call up more reserve units
to deal with the insurgency, we had call-up orders that languished
for thirty or forty days in the office of the Secretary of Defense.
Rumsfelds staff always seemed to be waiting for something to turn
upfor the problem to take care of itself, without any additional
troops. The official explained, They were hoping that they wouldnt
have to make a decision. The delay meant that soldiers in some
units about to be deployed had only a few days to prepare wills and
deal with other family and financial issues.
The same deliberate
indifference to bad news was evident in the past year, the Pentagon
official said, when the Army conducted a series of elaborate war games.
Planners would present best-case, moderate-case, and worst-case scenarios,
in an effort to assess where the Iraq war was headed and to estimate
future troop needs. In every case, the number of troops actually required
exceeded the worst-case analysis. Nevertheless, the Joint Chiefs of
Staff and civilian officials in the Pentagon continued to insist that
future planning be based on the most optimistic scenario. The
optimistic estimate was that at this point in timemid-2004the
U.S. Army would need only a handful of combat brigades in Iraq,
the Pentagon official said. There are nearly twenty now, with
the international coalition drying up. They were wildly off the mark.
The official added, From the beginning, the Army community was
saying that the projections and estimates were unrealistic. Now,
he said, were struggling to maintain a hundred and thirty-five
thousand troops while allowing soldiers enough time back home.
In his news conference
last Tuesday, Rumsfeld, when asked whether he thought the photographs
and stories from Abu Ghraib were a setback for American policy in Iraq,
still seemed to be in denial. Oh, Im not one for instant
history, he responded. By Friday, however, with some members of
Congress and with editorials calling for his resignation, Rumsfeld testified
at length before House and Senate committees and apologized for what
he said was fundamentally un-American wrongdoing at Abu
Ghraib. He also warned that more, and even uglier, disclosures were
to come. Rumsfeld said that he had not actually looked at any of the
Abu Ghraib photographs until some of them appeared in press accounts,
and hadnt reviewed the Armys copies until the day before.
When he did, they were hard to believe, he said. There
are other photos that depict . . . acts that can only be described as
blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman. Later, he said, Its
going to get still more terrible, Im afraid. Rumsfeld added,
I failed to recognize how important it was.
NBC News later quoted
U.S. military officials as saying that the unreleased photographs showed
American soldiers severely beating an Iraqi prisoner nearly to
death, having sex with a female Iraqi prisoner, and acting inappropriately
with a dead body. The officials said there also was a videotape,
apparently shot by U.S. personnel, showing Iraqi guards raping young
No amount of apologetic
testimony or political spin last week could mask the fact that, since
the attacks of September 11th, President Bush and his top aides have
seen themselves as engaged in a war against terrorism in which the old
rules did not apply. In the privacy of his office, Rumsfeld chafed over
what he saw as the reluctance of senior Pentagon generals and admirals
to act aggressively. By mid-2002, he and his senior aides were exchanging
secret memorandums on modifying the culture of the military leaders
and finding ways to encourage them to take greater risks.
One memo spoke derisively of the generals in the Pentagon, and said,
Our prerequisite of perfection for actionable intelligence
has paralyzed us. We must accept that we may have to take action before
every question can be answered. The Defense Secretary was told
that he should break the belt-and-suspenders mindset
within todays military . . . we over-plan for every
contingency. . . . We must be willing to accept the risks. With
operations involving the death of foreign enemies, the memo went on,
the planning should not be carried out in the Pentagon: The result
will be decision by committee.
impatience with military protocol extended to questions about the treatment
of prisoners caught in the course of its military operations. Soon after
9/11, as the war on terror got under way, Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly
made public his disdain for the Geneva conventions. Complaints about
Americas treatment of prisoners, Rumsfeld said in early 2002,
amounted to isolated pockets of international hyperventilation.
The effort to determine
what happened at Abu Ghraib has evolved into a sprawling set of related
investigations, some of them hastily put together, including inquiries
into twenty-five suspicious deaths. Investigators have become increasingly
concerned with the role played not only by military and intelligence
officials but also by C.I.A. agents and private-contract employees.
In a statement, the C.I.A. acknowledged that its Inspector General had
an investigation under way into abuses at Abu Ghraib, which extended
to the death of a prisoner. A source familiar with one of the investigations
told me that the victim was the man whose photograph, which shows his
battered body packed in ice, has circulated around the world. A Justice
Department prosecutor has been assigned to the case. The source also
told me that an Army intelligence operative and a judge advocate general
were seeking, through their lawyers, to negotiate immunity from prosecution
in return for testimony.
between military policing and intelligence forces inside the Army prison
system reached a turning point last fall in response to the insurgency
against the Coalition Provisional Authority. This is a fight for
intelligence, Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, commander of the
1st Armored Division, told a reporter at a Baghdad press briefing in
November. Do I have enough soldiers? The answer is absolutely
yes. The larger issue is, how do I use them and on what basis? And the
answer to that is intelligence . . . to try to figure out how to take
all this human intelligence as it comes in to us [and] turn it into
something thats actionable. The Army prison system would
now be asked to play its part.
Two months earlier,
Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the task force in charge
of the prison at Guantánamo, had brought a team of experts to
Iraq to review the Army program. His recommendation was radical: that
Army prisons be geared, first and foremost, to interrogations and the
gathering of information needed for the war effort. Detention
operations must act as an enabler for interrogation . . . to provide
a safe, secure and humane environment that supports the expeditious
collection of intelligence, Miller wrote. The military police
on guard duty at the prisons should make support of military intelligence
agreed, and on November 19th his headquarters issued an order formally
giving the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade tactical control over
the prison. General Taguba fearlessly took issue with the Sanchez orders,
which, he wrote in his report, effectively made an MI Officer,
rather than an MP officer, responsible for the MP units conducting detainee
operations at that facility. This is not doctrinally sound due to the
different missions and agenda assigned to each of these respective specialties.
Taguba also criticized
Millers report, noting that the intelligence value of detainees
held at . . . Guantánamo is different than that of the detainees/internees
held at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities in Iraq. . . . There
are a large number of Iraqi criminals held at Abu Ghraib. These are
not believed to be international terrorists or members of Al Qaeda.
Taguba noted that Millers recommendations appear to be in
conflict with other studies and with Army regulations that call
for military-police units to have control of the prison system. By placing
military-intelligence operatives in control instead, Millers recommendations
and Sanchezs change in policy undoubtedly played a role in the
abuses at Abu Ghraib. General Taguba concluded that certain military-intelligence
officers and civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib were either directly
or indirectly responsible for the abuses, and urged that they
be subjected to disciplinary action.
In late March, before
the Abu Ghraib scandal became publicly known, Geoffrey Miller was transferred
from Guantánamo and named head of prison operations in Iraq.
We have changed thistrust us, Miller told reporters
in early May. There were errors made. We have corrected those.
We will make sure that they do not happen again.
personnel assigned to Abu Ghraib repeatedly wore sterile,
or unmarked, uniforms or civilian clothes while on duty. You couldnt
tell them apart, the source familiar with the investigation said.
The blurring of identities and organizations meant that it was impossible
for the prisoners, or, significantly, the military policemen on duty,
to know who was doing what to whom, and who had the authority to give
orders. Civilian employees at the prison were not bound by the Uniform
Code of Military Justice, but they were bound by civilian lawthough
it is unclear whether American or Iraqi law would apply.
One of the employees
involved in the interrogations at Abu Ghraib, according to the Taguba
report, was Steven Stefanowicz, a civilian working for CACI International,
a Virginia-based company. Private companies like CACI and Titan Corp.
could pay salaries of well over a hundred thousand dollars for the dangerous
work in Iraq, far more than the Army pays, and were permitted, as never
before in U.S. military history, to handle sensitive jobs. (In a briefing
last week, General Miller confirmed that Stefanowicz had been reassigned
to administrative duties. A CACI spokeswoman declined to comment on
any employee in Iraq, citing safety concerns, but said that the company
still had not heard anything directly from the government about Stefanowicz.)
his colleagues conducted most, if not all, of their interrogations in
the Abu Ghraib facilities known to the soldiers as the Wood Building
and the Steel Building. The interrogation centers were rarely visited
by the M.P.s, a source familiar with the investigation said. The most
important prisonersthe suspected insurgency members deemed to
be High Value Detaineeswere housed at Camp Cropper, near the Baghdad
airport, but the pressure on soldiers to accede to requests from military
intelligence was felt throughout the system.
Not everybody went
along. A company captain in a military-police unit in Baghdad told me
last week that he was approached by a junior intelligence officer who
requested that his M.P.s keep a group of detainees awake around the
clock until they began talking. I said, No, we will not
do that, the captain said. The M.I. commander comes
to me and says, What is the problem? Were stressed, and
all we are asking you to do is to keep them awake. I ask, How?
Youve received training on that, but my soldiers dont know
how to do it. And when you ask an eighteen-year-old kid to keep someone
awake, and he doesnt know how to do it, hes going to get
creative. The M.I. officer took the request to the captains
commander, but, the captain said, he backed me up.
all about people. The M.P.s at Abu Ghraib were failed by their commandersboth
low-ranking and high, the captain said. The system is brokenno
doubt about it. But the Army is made up of people, and weve got
to depend on them to do the right thing.
In his report, Taguba
strongly suggested that there was a link between the interrogation process
in Afghanistan and the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A few months after General
Millers report, Taguba wrote, General Sanchez, apparently troubled
by reports of wrongdoing in Army jails in Iraq, asked Army Provost Marshal
Donald Ryder, a major general, to carry out a study of military prisons.
In the resulting study, which is still classified, Ryder identified
a conflict between military policing and military intelligence dating
back to the Afghan war. He wrote, Recent intelligence collection
in support of Operation Enduring Freedom posited a template whereby
military police actively set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews.
One of the most
prominent prisoners of the Afghan war was John Walker Lindh, the twenty-one-year-old
Californian who was captured in December, 2001. Lindh was accused of
training with Al Qaeda terrorists and conspiring to kill Americans.
A few days after his arrest, according to a federal-court affidavit
filed by his attorney, James Brosnahan, a group of armed American soldiers
blindfolded Mr. Lindh, and took several pictures of Mr. Lindh
and themselves with Mr. Lindh. In one, the soldiers scrawled shithead
across Mr. Lindhs blindfold and posed with him. . . . Another
told Mr. Lindh that he was going to hang for his actions
and that after he was dead, the soldiers would sell the photographs
and give the money to a Christian organization. Some of the photographs
later made their way to the American media. Lindh was later stripped
naked, bound to a stretcher with duct tape, and placed in a windowless
shipping container. Once again, the affidavit said, military personnel
photographed Mr. Lindh as he lay on the stretcher. On July 15,
2002, Lindh agreed to plead guilty to carrying a gun while serving in
the Taliban and received a twenty-year jail term. During that process,
Brosnahan told me, the Department of Defense insisted that we
state that there was no deliberate mistreatment of John.
His client agreed to do so, but, the attorney noted, Against that,
you have that photograph of a naked John on that stretcher.
of prisoners, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, seems to have been not
random but, rather, part of the dehumanizing interrogation process.
The Times published an interview last week with Hayder Sabbar Abd, who
claimed, convincingly, to be one of the mistreated Iraqi prisoners in
the Abu Ghraib photographs. Abd told Ian Fisher, the Times reporter,
that his ordeal had been recorded, almost constantly, by cameras, which
added to his humiliation. He remembered how the camera flashed repeatedly
as soldiers told to him to masturbate and beat him when he refused.
One lingering mystery
is how Ryder could have conducted his review last fall, in the midst
of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, without managing to catch it. (Ryder
told a Pentagon press briefing last week that his trip to Iraq was
not an inspection or an investigation. . . . It was an assessment.)
In his report to Sanchez, Ryder flatly declared that there were
no military police units purposely applying inappropriate confinement
practices. Willie J. Rowell, who served for thirty-six years as
an agent of the C.I.D., told me that Ryder was in a bureaucratic bind.
The Army had revised its command structure last fall, and Ryder, as
provost marshal, was now the commanding general of all military-police
units as well as of the C.I.D. He was, in essence, being asked to investigate
himself. What Ryder should have done was set up a C.I.D. task
force headed by an 0-6full colonelwith fifteen
agents, and begin interviewing everybody and taking sworn statements,
Rowell said. He had to answer questions about the prisons in September,
when Sanchez asked for an assessment. At the time, Rowell added,
the Army prison system was unprepared for the demands the insurgency
placed on it. Ryder was a man in a no-win situation, Rowell
said. As provost marshal, if hed turned a C.I.D. task force
loose, he could be in harms waybecause hes also boss
of the military police. He was being eaten alive.
Ryder may have protected
himself, but Taguba did not. Hes not regarded as a hero
in some circles in the Pentagon, a retired Army major general
said of Taguba. Hes the guy who blew the whistle, and the
Army will pay the price for his integrity. The leadership does not like
to have people make bad news public.
Copyright: The New