Those who are unaware of Abu Ghraib will learn quite a few, perhaps not-so-surprising things about abuses committed in Iraq by American soldiers. Abu Ghraib is a prison near Baghdad that was once host to all manner of torture and death at the hands of Saddam Hussein's forces.
Once Hussein was removed from power, and his forces laid relatively low, the Americans took over the facility, and began loading up the prison with their own Iraqi criminals. Most of the detainees in the facility were hardly guilty of any crime that should involve the military in the first place. But it wasn't so much the fact that they were detained. It was what happened to them while they were detained that's the issue.
Soldiers in charge of certain cell blocks clearly fell in love with the power they had over their inmates. And since it was in another country, and no one seemingly cared about a few Iraqis here and there, they went to town with torture. They used poisonous snakes, electricity, acid, rape, attack dogs, beatings, and bullets to instil an incredible amount of fear into the hearts of the prisoners.
Less than 20 were ever relieved of duty, and just over 10 were ever convicted for crimes. None of the perpetrators served full sentences, including the ring leader Charles Graner. And there seems to be little remorse for the torture and death they caused.
15 Distraught Family
Abu Ghraib was a place of torture and death long before the Americans got to it. Saddam Hussein's awful regime did some mighty nasty work there. So the place was no secret from the people of Iraq. The American troops just kept the place running once they took over. And it did not take long for word to reach the Iraqi people that American soldiers were torturing their family members in the prison. This man is being shown photographs of what was happening to a relative, and others within the prison walls. Imagine being this man. Thinking that the pain is close to being over Saddam has been removed from power, and the country can rebuild. But not yet. First family and friends must be tortured some more. I can't imagine how I'd feel, being shown a photograph of my family being tortured.
14 A Round Of Beatings
It's amazing to me that the soldiers photographed so much of what they did there. It's almost as if they thought they'd be praised for what they were doing. But somehow, I don't think zip-tying likely innocent people, throwing them on the ground, and beating the sh*t out of them is something most people find appealing. It has to be pointed out that these guys have bags over their heads to. So they can't even see where an attack is coming from. Which is extra frightening considering the asshole soldier in the photo is about to punch one of them in the back of the neck. Which is more than enough to kill someone if done hard enough, and in the correct spot. But it's pretty clear that they didn't really care if they killed anyone. Though they preferred to torture, rather than kill.
13 Leashed And Dragged
How young must this soldier be? 20 years old, maybe? Imagine at that age, strapping a leash to an Iraqi man, and dragging him around naked on the concrete floors of a prison. Most of the inmates at Abu Ghraib were not even imprisoned for anything to do with war crimes, or crimes against the Americans. They were put there for petty crimes that they would have otherwise received fines for...or jail time devoid of torture and humiliation at least. I always thought that the Americans invaded Iraq in order to save the people from tyranny. Not to impose their own, horrible version of it. Hussein did slaughter plenty of his own people. And to the credit of the soldiers station at Abu Ghraib...they didn't kill a lot of the prisoners. But they did kill some, and tortured all. So...did they take the moral high ground? I don't think Lynndie England did.
12 Covered In Waste
There was no end to the ways in which the soldiers at Abu Ghraib would humiliate their Iraqi inmates. Finally liberated from the awful era of Saddam Hussein, only to be literally thrown into a cell, and toyed with at all hours of the day and night. The American soldiers there even had some very disturbing ways of tarring and feathering their victims. They would use other substances though. It's amazing that inmates didn't simply die of infection, or extremely poor sanitary conditions. Considering what was done to them, and how they were treated. I can't even begin to imagine what was going through the minds of the soldiers when they started in on these defenseless people. Perhaps the soldiers were taking out their frustrations of finding nothing but death in Iraq?
11 Cuffed To The Bed In Humiliation
One could assume a few things about the position in which this man is cuffed to the bed frame. And probably any one of the those assumptions actually happened to him at one point or another. As an Iraqi man, it's already humiliating enough to be paraded naked through a prison. Not to mention strapped to a cold, metal bed frame. And then on top of that, to have underwear (likely soiled) thrown onto his face...that's just horrible. And then add to that the beatings, and sexual assault that accompanied these restraints. As well as the psychological torturing they'd endure. And knowing all of this was being photographed as well must have just been completely soul-crushing. Knowing that this is the treatment the Allied forces give to others is pretty appalling.
10 Proud Of Their Pileup
Yes, this is a pile of inmates. Forced to strip naked. Bags pulled over their heads. And forced to get on top of each other. And that's not even the most disturbing part of this whole thing. Being pressed up against another person while naked is not the worst thing that could happen. That's not to take away from the severity of the humiliation here. But the worst part of this is that the soldiers are mighty proud, and full of smiles. It's like they've created some wonderful little structure. Like they've built a little fort of people, and want to take a picture of it to remember all the good times. How absolutely messed up is that? I've never served in the military, so I can't speak from experience. But I think there's a bit of contradiction here, when soldiers are sent to help a people...and then they decide to overpower, and humiliate them instead.
9 Assume The Position...Or else
At the very least, this guy was not hooked up to electrodes, or anything of that sort. But he was still forced into this position, with a bag over his head, and chained to the wall. If you think something like this is torture, then imagine how much worse it would be for this man if he did not hold the position as long as the soldiers wanted. And indeed that was part of the torture. As soon as he fails, he gets beaten. And it would not take long. Already disoriented from the bag on his head, his balance would be thrown off. And leaning forward like that would not help either. The extreme muscle pain from remaining in that position, as well as the blood rushing to his head, would force him to re-position, or fall. And this would give rise to beatings for failure to follow orders.
8 Attack Dogs
Yeah, it wasn't enough for the soldiers to torture inmates themselves. They had to torture dogs also, and train them to attack. And then beyond that, use them to frighten, or actually mangle inmates at the prison. That look, on the inmates face...it is sheer terror at the idea of being ripped apart by this dog. One slip from the soldier (purposeful or not) could have easily resulted in a dead inmate. I'm pretty sure the deaths that did come from American hands were from beatings and bullets, but that doesn't change the potential at all. It's amazing just how confident, and competent these soldiers were with not just humiliating their inmates. But also instilling complete, and total fear into them. The inmates did riot at one point, but it's pretty clear just why that didn't succeed, and why they did as they were told.
7 The Infamous Hooded Man
This is perhaps the most famous photo to have come out of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. And that's for a few reasons. The main reason being that it was probably among the most tame. Some photos depicted the American soldiers there posing with dead bodies of inmates. This man, Ali Shallal al-Qaisi, has become the chilling mascot of the atrocious behaviour of American soldiers at Abu Ghraib. You can even find bobble heads of this guy...which I think is a bit too much, to be honest. A run down of what's happening in this photo though. The guy was made to balance on the box, with electrodes attached to his hands and throat. The idea being that he would be shocked if he moved from his Christ-like pose. Which was surely meant as a symbolic win for the "Christian" soldiers who put this man up there.
6 Solitary Confinement...Outside
If you disregard the incredibly small amount of space a detainee would have in this solitary cage outside...it might seem like a bit of a treat. Taking in the fresh air, and somewhat removed from all of the beatings and rape going on inside the prison. But it's not as wonderful as it might seem. The incredibly hot, dry, and sunny summer days would be brutal for anyone forced to sit in such a cage. And while it is Iraq, winter temperatures can go as low as three degrees Celsius (38 degrees Fahrenheit). Which means depending on when an inmate might be thrown into solitary, they could either be roasted, or damn near frozen. And it's not like they're given adequate protection from the elements by any means. And I wouldn't be surprised if the prisoner in this photo had his arm broken very shortly after this photo.
5 All Smiles About A Dead Detainee
Charles Graner is one of the most detestable men to have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This man is responsible for so much of the misery that occurred at Abu Ghraib under American power that it's vomit-inducing. He appears in several of the photos in this piece. Either looking on with a smile of approval, or getting down and dirty, and personally beating the hell out of prisoners. He even posed for photos with an inmate that he beat to death. They put the corpse on ice, and he got right down there to give a good thumbs up. It's amazing because I'm pretty sure soldiers have to go through some sort of psychological examinations for service. It's not like they could ever be prepared for the death, and destruction they see...but there are tests to see what they'd do with power. Clearly they skipped Graner's testing.
4 Sexual Humiliation
Lynndie England is one of the soldiers responsible for the torture and humiliation of so many prisoners at Abu Ghraib. She and Charles Graner seem to have had the most fun at the prison. At least it seems that way from photographic evidence. It's pretty amazing when you can smile for a camera, knowing full well you're about to do something that is most certainly a crime, and reason enough for discharge from the military. She was a reservist, and got the chance to go to Iraq and "torture some folks" as Obama would put it. She only served half of a three year sentence for torture. That's how little the justice system cared about the appalling treatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. And it's pretty clear from witness accounts, and photos that she did more than just torture. Sexual assault should most certainly have been an additional charge. She would have been given more time in prison, or at least put on a predator list.
3 Ganging Up
It didn't take much to give soldiers at the prison a reason to give some heavy beatings. And there weren't just beatings, to be fair to the prisoners. There was rape as well. And death. Now in some cases, there are eight soldiers, crowding around one inmate. It's not like they're just hanging around, having a smoke, and chatting about the weather, and the state of the oil in Iraq. No, they are hang-beating the inmate while they have a smoke, chat about the weather, and the state of oil in Iraq. Only 17 soldiers were relieved of duty from the military, and only 11 of them were convicted of any crimes. And they barely served any sentences between them. That's perhaps one of the most disturbing and chilling fact about the entire scandal.
2 Chained To The Door...And Foot Stomping
Imagine being cuffed to the door of a prison cell. But in such a way that your hands and feet are sticking out of the cell. Why? So soldiers can come up and stomp on you. And also so you can't sleep. Certain restraining made it easier for rape to occur. Some prisoners even became pregnant, and were later killed by their own families, as a form of honour killing. Others, which were restrained, would simply have acid poured all over them. Or would have their genitals tied up, and pulled on by the soldiers. And that's not all, by any means. Being restrained in such a way made it easy for soldiers to come at the prisoners with poisonous snakes, which they would have bite the inmates. Naturally this did result in death on more than one occasion. And a few bullets here and there were sometimes deemed appropriate as well.
1 Parents Allow This...
Of all of the photos in the article, this might actually be one of the most disturbing. And that's not to take away from the atrocities that occurred at Abu Ghraib. It has more to do with the incredible insensitivity of not only children, but their parents as well. This is glorifying the United States as a nation of torture-happy tyrants, who love nothing more than making people fear them. I actually can't even believe that this was something parents allowed to be photographed. And this was clearly not the choice of the children. They look far too young to even really grasp what happened at Abu Ghraib. They probably could hardly say the name of the prison! They added the hooded man, a dog attack, severed limbs, and a very contented Lynndie England in there as well. Disgusting.