Thursday, September 29, 2005

Abuse and Consent

[[W A R]] * Almost a year and a half after the initial photographs were released of American soldiers abusing and torturing Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, and just three days after U.S. Army Reserve Private Lynndie England, one of the participants in those outrages, was convicted on six of seven charges at a military court-martial, a federal judge in New York has ordered the government to release dozens of additional pictures from Abu Ghraib. This, despite a warning from Air Force General Richard B. Myers, the departing Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, that the new shots could spark riots against U.S. troops.

Arguing that terrorists “do not need pretexts for their barbarism,” U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said today, “My task is not to defer to our worst fears, but to interpret and apply the law, in this case, the Freedom of Information Act, which advances values important to our society, transparency and accountability in government.” The American Civil Liberties Union had sought release of these photographs, and more, under an October 2003 lawsuit. Hellerstein’s ruling means that 74 photos and three videotapes from Abu Ghraib will be made public, likely reinvigorating worldwide outrage over U.S. treatment of military detainees at the prison, located west of Baghdad. Or worse. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said the new photos and videos show acts that are “blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhumane,” while others have suggested they contain scenes of “rape and murder.”

General John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, no doubt recalling the anti-American riots earlier this year in Afghanistan and elsewhere--allegedly incited by Newsweek’s report about Koran desecration--contends that making these new photos public will hinder the so-called war on terror. “When we continue to pick at the wound and show the pictures over and over again,” he says, “it just creates the image--a false image--like this is the sort of stuff that is happening anew, and it’s not.”

On the other hand, General, denying wrongdoing won’t make it go away. And it’s not like you have to worry that Americans will stop supporting Bush’s war if they see more photographs of the heinous acts at Abu Ghraib. Heck, opinion is already pretty solidly against continuing the bloody combat in Saddam Hussein’s homeland.

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In related news, the U.S. Army says it has already shut down its investigation into reports that American soldiers are swapping gory shots of deceased and mutilated Iraqis for free access to amateur pornography--a potential violation of the Geneva Conventions. The San Francisco-area newspaper East Bay Express helped break this story earlier in the week, maintaining that “For almost a year, American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been taking photographs of dead bodies, many of them horribly mutilated or blown to pieces, and sending them” to a Netherlands-based Web site called Now That’s Fucked Up.com. The site usually invites folks to post nude and suggestive images of their wives and girlfriends, and browse photos supplied by other testosteronics.

According to Reuters, the Army Criminal Investigation Command in Iraq, which conducted the gore-for-porn probe “closed it after concluding no felony crime had been committed and failing to determine whether U.S. soldiers were responsible for the photos and whether they showed actual war dead.” However, Muslim groups in the States remain irate over the photographs and may yet reignite the inquiry. “It’s entirely inappropriate for the military to do such a cursory investigation of something that is really casting a very negative light on our nation’s military and can only serve to further damage America’s image and interests throughout the Islamic world,” declared Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil-rights group.

READ MORE:Atoning for Abu Ghraib,” by Marian Blasberg and Anita Blasberg (Der Spiegel); “Which One Is the Pornographer?,” by Tim Grieve (Salon); “Army Recruiter Charged in Nude Photo Case” (AP); “The Downside of Equality,” by Ellen Goodman (The Boston Globe); “Iraq Whistle-Blower Critical of Army Probe,” by Eric Schmitt (The New York Times).