Ghastly Prison Photos Shred America’s Credibility

By Ramona Shashaani
Friday May 07, 2004

Millions of witnesses were shocked by the graphic photographs of American soldiers reveling in the vicious torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, a U.S.-run prison outside Baghdad, notorious for torture and massive executions under Saddam Hussein. The photographs depicted images of a prisoner, his head covered in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood with wires fixed to his fingers, toes and genitals; nude inmates piled in a human pyramid; a triumphant soldier named Chip Frederick sitting on top of a naked prisoner while Private Lynndie England shows a “thumbs up” sign while pointing to the genitals of a detainee forced to masturbate; a dog attacking a prisoner; stripped inmates being forced to simulate sex with each other and beat one another.  

In a Muslim society, where modesty is a prized basic value, to force men and women into public nudity is humiliating enough, let alone torturing them into committing overt sexual acts. In Abu Graib, however, U.S. military police were required to “loosen up,” or “break down” the inmates to “make them talk” to military intelligence agents and private contractors by subjecting them to deprivation from food, water and sleep; intimidation; taking away their clothes, mattresses and sheets; handcuffing and shackling them while repeatedly beating them.  

Systematic illegal abuse of detainees was routinely perpetrated at all levels against more than 900 detainees crammed into small cells, most of whom were innocent women and children picked up in random military sweeps. Investigators admit that most did not pose a threat to society but were detained indefinitely, without keeping any record of their imprisonment. Abu Ghraib had become a replica of Guantanamo Bay. No wonder the Pentagon quickly dispatched Major General Geoffrey Miller, former commander of the Guantanamo detention center to head Abu Ghraib! 

Disciplinary measures are pending against six low-ranking soldiers charged with abusing and sexually humiliating detainees. These, however, are merely used as scapegoats to blow smoke over a horrendous institutionalized system of torture in the Army prison system. The way the high ranking military “intelligence” personnel and the Pentagon’s hired guns methodically train our “liberation forces” to de-humanize, demonize, torture, and violate the very integrity of modest Iraqi Muslims is truly horrifying. What is more appalling is when we condone the torture and killings by closing our eyes and ears, remaining silent for fear of retribution and keeping the real perpetrators in power. The main responsible culprits are higher up.  

On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 men crashed four hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, both symbols of U.S. Imperialism. Nearly three thousand innocent people from across the globe were brutally set ablaze. Our government emphasized ad nauseum, that all 19 men were Muslims. Hence, all Muslims were portrayed as terrorists, denigrated to enemy status and became the object of hundreds of untold hate crimes, many of which go unpunished. When President Bush himself uses 19 men to represent over one billion Muslims in the world, against whom to wage his “Holy war for freedom,” what can be said about his subordinates?  

When 9/11 occurred, the whole world cried out against the perpetrators of the WTC disaster. This included rallies in support of Americans by tens of thousands of people in Muslim countries including Iran, later blacklisted on George Bush’s “axis of evil.” In less than one year, we managed to arouse the outrage and ridicule of people worldwide by empowering a president who is on a crusade to create an empire through pre-emptive strikes and “shock and awe” at our expense. It didn’t take long before we fueled the anger of average Iraqi people who are not afraid to fight to the last breath to reclaim their country from foreign occupation. As a former Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cowen said of the tortured prisoners, “These people at some point will be let out. Their families are going to know. Their friends are going to know. We will be paid back for this.” 

We went to Iraq as “liberators.” We showed the world our twisted and tortured notion of freedom by killing, maiming, torturing and raping the powerless under our control. We sent our innocent, uneducated and ill-trained youth to bring freedom and democracy to an oppressed nation, but ended up piling their innocent naked bodies into pyramids like Saddam’s piles of bones. Yet when Ted Koppel, a responsible journalist who defies the censorship of mass media owners, went on “Nightline” on April 29, 2004, some networks balked at the mere mention of the names of “the fallen.” They called it “unpatriotic” to show the faces of those who gave up their lives to wage Bush’s war. They deem it “disloyal” to dissent against wrong government policies that undermine the Constitution.  

Whatever happened to our loyalty to individual and collective human rights, our respect for freedom and justice for all? How can we distinguish between “good Americans” and “bad” ones who violate every moral value when we ourselves are incapable of distinguishing good Muslims who struggle against dictatorship in their own countries from “bad” ones who terrorize a nation? 

When are we going to wake up and bring the real offenders to justice? The blame needs to roll uphill. We should bring to account not only the ill-trained soldiers, mercenaries and private contractors who are paid out of our tax dollars to commend the “Chip Federicks” for their “great job,” but also bring to justice the unelected president and his notorious attorney general who have torn to shreds our hard-won Bill of Rights. Each time we go to the polls, we need to remember our roles as free citizens and elect individuals who truly care about our interests, not the value of their stocks or the balance of their bank accounts. We must empower those who let their actions speak for their values, those who prove patriotic by honoring human integrity, those who respect the right to dissent against losing our basic freedoms in the guise of “national security,” those who refuse to use our youth as human shields in legally and morally wrong wars which lead to lamentable bloodshed.  

We need to remember that freedom, justice, love and compassion for all are the only true American values. Not hatred, vengeance, torture and destruction. We must lift our voices and let our leaders know that we will not forget or forgive what they have done in our name. If not now, then when? If we, the ordinary citizens don’t do anything, who will?  



Ramona Shashaani 

8750-67 Villa La Jolla Drive 

La Jolla, CA 92037