abuse

From the Financial Times, via Crooked Timber:

The chilling photographs show US soldiers forcing prisoners at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison to simulate sex with each other and to pose naked with US men and women in military uniforms. Others show a detainee with wires attached to his body in an attempt to convince him he might be electrocuted, and naked prisoners stacked in a human pyramid, one with a slur written in English on his skin.

I looked at the photos (warning: pretty graphic) this morning and it put me off my lunch. At the risk of conflating unrelated issues, the president seems to think that the US is a country for white people:

There’s a lot of people in the world who don’t believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren’t necessarily — are a different color than white can self-govern.

I can’t tell if Bush is using the “royal we” or if he’s promoting the “democracy: it’s not just for white people” line. In any event, it’s always good policy to call your critics racists when you don’t want to admit you made a mistake. Given those photos, it seems that some of those people whose beliefs he rejects are the ones on the ground bringing democracy to Iraq.

I would love to believe that those photos are not representative of systematic problems, but Amnesty International disagrees. Who is providing training to these interrogators? Who should be held accountable for these abuses?

One of the soldiers facing court martial, Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick, reported that “We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things…like rules and regulations, and it just wasn’t happening.”

Apparently he’s a reservist who works as a corrections officer. I suppose that the procedure for military prisoners is different, but is that an excuse for these abuses? Here’s Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Perhaps some more training is in order. Or we can just turn the whole mess over in June and make it someone else’s problem.

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