Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Outraged At The Outrage At The Outrage

Yet another internal U.S. Army report on the prison policies in Iraq has found its way into the media, and the findings are, once again, disturbing to say the least.

According an unpublished report by Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, that was obtained by the New York Times, "Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were held in Abu Ghraib prison for prolonged periods despite a lack of evidence that they posed a security threat to American forces."

The report "reflects what other senior Army officers have described as a deep concern among some American officers and officials in Iraq over the refusal of top American commanders in Baghdad to authorize the release of so-called security prisoners. Some of those prisoners were held for interrogation at Abu Ghraib in the cellblock that became the site of the worst abuses at the prison."

"General Ryder, the Army's provost marshal, reported that some Iraqis had been held for several months for nothing more than expressing 'displeasure or ill will' toward the American occupying forces. The Nov. 5 report said the process for deciding which arrested Iraqis posed security risks justifying imprisonment, and for deciding when to release them, violated the Pentagon's own policies. It also said the conditions in which they were held sometimes violated the Geneva Conventions."

Prisoners held for several months in conditions that violate the Geneva Conventions, which is just a lengthy euphemism for torture and abuse, for nothing more than expressing "displeasure or ill will" toward the occupying forces? Is this the type of democracy we are bringing to Iraq? Is this free speech? Are these the new types of freedoms that are supposed to convince Iraqis how lucky they are that we bombed their country and killed tens of thousands of civilian men, women and children in order to depose Saddam because he was a brutal dictator? Is this what some Republicans were referring to when they said they were "Outraged at the outrage over the prisoner abuse scandal" because these detainees were terrorists and had American blood on their hands? Really?

Of course these findings are consistent with the findings of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which issued a report in February which noted that "military intelligence officers told the I.C.R.C. that in their estimate between 70 percent and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake."

Similarly, the recent actions of the U.S. Army themselves appear to be acting on these findings. "Since the scope of abuses at Abu Ghraib first began to come to light late last month, the military has begun to discharge prisoners from the facility at a rapidly accelerated rate." The total number of prisoners released in the month of May alone has well exceeded 1,000, including last Friday when 624 Iraqi prisoners were freed from the prison.

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