Politics of Torture

If the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel is revolting, almost as shocking is the reaction of American politicians to the scandal. Under political pressure, President Bush grudgingly apologized only after the apologies by his subordinates. His description of the abuses as "abhorrent" failed to dampen the furor. In interviews with networks broadcasting in the Middle East, the president probably further inflamed the Islamic world by using the arrogant and commanding phraseology, "people in Iraq must understand..." and, "the people of the Middle East must understand..." The New York Times characterized the president's tone in the interviews by writing, "In responding to the Muslim rage over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Mr. Bush sometimes sounded as if he was chiding angry Arabs for not appreciating the United States' good intentions."

At congressional hearings, Donald Rumsfeld, the embattled Secretary of Defense, repeatedly defended his failure to inform the Congress and the public about the abuse by claiming that he wanted to avoid violating defendants' rights in the abuse cases. Since when has Rumsfeld-who has jailed Iraqis, Afghans and U.S. citizens indefinitely and without due process-cared about defendants' rights? Only when they are the rights of U.S. military personnel and it suits his interest for political survival.

As for the members of Congress holding the hearings, they seemed more concerned about the release of the photos than with the barbaric behavior depicted in them. Would the behavior have been more acceptable if no photos or videos had been taken of it? Hardly.

Representative Mac Thornberry, (R-Texas) was outraged that the person in the U.S. government who leaked the photos was exploiting them to harm American efforts to end repression in Iraq. Similarly, Rumsfeld noted that the disk containing the photos-classified "secret"-had been improperly leaked to the media. But Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists noted that the government's classification system was supposed to be used to safeguard national security information, not illegal activities. Contrary to the spin of the administration and its allies, whoever leaked the photos did the American public a service by exposing the flagrant disregard of U.S. military prison guards for American values.

Meanwhile Representative Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia) was trying his best to keep blame at the lowest level possible. He advocated prosecuting the lower level "miscreants" but giving only a "slap on the wrist" to their superiors.

During the hearings, members of Congress fell all over themselves to argue that this aberration didn't stain the valiant efforts of the U.S. military to bring democracy and prosperity to Iraq. Unfortunately, the abuse may not have been an aberration and even if it was, the Bush administration's culpability should not be lessened.

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, the Army's own investigator, reported that the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was "systemic." He charged that the Bush administration ignored complaints from the International Red Cross, which characterized the use of excessive coercion as "standard operating procedure" and the prison conditions as "tantamount to torture." The Army is investigating the circumstances of many prisoners who died in U.S. custody in Iraq. Brig. Gen Janis Karpinski, the defrocked commandant of U.S. prisons in Iraq, claims that the euphemistic policy of setting "favorable conditions" for interrogations was made at a higher level. Suspiciously, it took a while after Saddam Hussein's capture to declare him a prisoner of war, subject to the protection of the Geneva Convention. Was this period used to "soften him up" for interrogation?

Even if the torture and abuse shown in the photos are an aberration, the administration cannot escape blame. In any unnecessary invasion, the moral responsibility for any torture or abuse of prisoners, no matter how isolated, must accrue to those that set the war in motion.

The administration clearly tried to keep Congress and the public in the dark about the photos. General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that General Abizaid, the Commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, reported the abuses and photos to Washington early on and characterized them as "a big deal." Apparently so much so that Myers didn't tell Congress and actively attempted to keep them from the American people. The day of the CBS "60 Minutes II" broadcast, Myers testified on Capitol Hill, but did not warn Congress about the impending release of the explosive photographs. Of course, Myers knew about their imminent disclosure because he had already attempted to delay the release of the photographs by pleading with CBS that televising the images would endanger U.S. troops. That rationale is unconvincing and comes from a man who should have worried more about the lives of U.S. troops at the time of the internal administration debates over going to war in the first place. In this instance, Myers' concern about soldiers' lives is about as believable as Rumsfeld's defense of defendants' rights.

All parties-the Bush administration, the uniformed military and members of Congress-appear to be behaving badly in this scandal.

Ivan Eland is the Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

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Older Comments:
Patrick, 90% of the prisoners in the concentration camp were innocent bystanders who were locked and tortured by your trigger happy troops.
You Americans are a sick breed. You defend terrorism when its committed by your own and denounce it when you are on the receiving end of it.
The only criminals in Iraq are the invaders, the US and its "coalition of the bought." Iraqis have every right to fight back against these terrorists. Maybe you should have yourself shipped off to Iraq since you're so gung-ho about the war....then again why are all you warmongering chicken hawks hiding behind computers safely in your homes...?

Patrick, in Congressional hearings and comments by members of Congress (Republicans and otherwise) it is clear that at least a few members of America's armed forces are going to be formally charged with the murder and rape of some of the detainees at Abu Ghraib. The American people are being denied at look at the evidence courtesy of the (apparently) useful idiots who brutally murdered the kindly and gentle Nick Berg. For all I care, Nick Berg's murderers can be shot by the same firing squad as those who are convicted of murder and rape at Abu Ghraib (or anywhere else) in the same volley if you like. I suppose that such an exercise would actually more take the form of hanging them all from the same gallows - or whatever - and may God have mercy on us all.

Also, technically speaking, we should be considering the detainees in question to be suspects rather than criminals, in as much as they have yet to be convicted of (or apparently even charged with) committing a crime. Also, in my opinion, B52s would serve better than torture chambers and presumably leaking glow sticks in defending Americans against future 9/11s - that and an adequate awareness of what is being done to other people, in other countries, all in our name. After all, slaughter would seem preferable to persecution - would it not? Granted, our "authority" in foreign places would seem limited to enabling the "liberated" to depart for places (hopefully) more accommodating - as far as I am aware. If we Americans do not like the thought of receiving all those "huddled masses yearning to be free" then perhaps we Americans should consider not endeavoring to impose our will on them (perhaps).

Peace be upon you.

Wa'alaikum assalam Akbar Khan. I was intending to address Americans, with that comment. Logically that same comment should seemingly apply to non-American Muslims, also.

I see it as our duty to oppose such things as brutality and genocide, whether such things are occurring in our own country or someone else's. In doing so, I do not believe we ourselves are entitled to steal anyone's property or impose our preferences - or Allah's preferences (as Allah wills that we understand them) - on anyone we subdue in the course of doing our duty, beyond simply opposing that which should not be tolerated. Obviously, I am surely forgetting a number of important points but that is basically the way I myself happen to see it.

In instances where the United States is inflicting torture, it is unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment - and torture inflicted upon uncooperative detainees is precisely that. I do not believe that the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General or anyone else can grant Americans "special dispensation" to act unconstitutionally in the course of doing their duty as Americans. American military personnel are (I presume) sworn to uphold the constitution rather than to obey various unconstitutional orders.

Incidentally, I have read that the government might try to hold Jose Padilla indefinitely, in complete isolation, simply because the interrogation methods used on him were considered state secrets. I think it is beginning to become clear to a growing number of Americans why that might be the case. Also, the expression "intelligence value" - when used to deny long-term detainees access to legal consul - apparently means "political catastrophe" (or so it may seem).

Brother Akbar - sorry for the confusion. I am grateful you asked for clarification.


I'm just asking, could you clarify what you meant br. Yahya by your last post?

who is utilizing torture to achieve their objectives?

Do you mean that if Muslims torture Americans in Iraq then it gives the US forces a reason to stay? If that is what you're saying then I want to know why a movie of Nick Berg being decapitated is allowed to be seen by the public, but videos of Iraqi women being raped, and Iraqi men being murdered in their prison by a slow and torturous death, why those videos are not allowed to be released, such as the one Iraqi man wrapped up in saran wrap and ice.

But if you are saying that if Muslims show support for torture in order to support our comments on this website, then those who attack Muslims WILL yes, attack us, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they are justified in doing so...

I might be wrong about your post, if I am please forgive me.

Allah knows best all that we do.




Torture, give me a break.You all are whining about some criminals (who, by the way, were trying to kill US soldiers) had to lie naked on each other?

Those US soldiers made mistakes and they will be held accountable.But, hello?..there is a frigging war going on.There are bigger things happening.

This war has nothing to do with Islam vs. Christianity or any other religion.It has to do with aggressively pursuing the terrorist network and destroying them before they attack us again.

Remember 9-11? You act as if it never happened.

But it did and we are not going to sit around and wait for it to happen again.

Where is the outrage over the 4 contractors who were burned, drug through the street, mutilated, and hung from bridges?

Where is the outrage over a young man, who foolishly thought he could work in the warzone without protection, who had his head cut off with a knife? There has been minimal denouncing of the act compared to naked Iraqi criminals.

I watched it and that was about as barbaric as you can get.

Are we perfect? No. Have we accidently killed civilians? Yes, its unfortunate but seemingly unavoidable in modern warfare.

How many of his own people did Sadaam kill?They're still finding bodies and mass graves.Everybody who wants Sadaam back in power, raise your hand.

Is war a good thing?No, but welcome to the cruel world.

We have made mistakes, but some of the statements in the article and the comments posted are outright lies and propaganda.At least try to be objective.I recognize that we have made mistakes.Who hasn't and what country is perfect?

By the way, the US media does not like the current administration and they are constantly trying to undermine it.If US soldiers were committing rape and murder as some of the comments say, then the media would have love to expose those "atrocities." But naked Iraqi criminals is the worst thing they can come up with? Waaa..W

If we utilize torture to achieve our objectives, those who attack us are justified in doing so. What other justification do Americans have for invading Iraq?

The abuse of prisoners by US forces is a crime. Of that
there can be no doubt. Just as the abuse of US forces at the
hands of the Iraqi army earlier in the war was a crime. Islam
teaches that the mutilation of the dead is a sin, yet where
was the outrage over the desecration of the bodies of the
murdered American contractors. Or, for that matter, the
Paletinians taking pieces of the bodies from the murdered
Israelies so they could not be buried according to Torah
law? Let the group that has not commited attrocities
complain the loudest I say. As in any war, both sides are
equally guilty.

To sister Khadija:
You have posted an eyeopening fact i did not know about. it is bad enough that these filthy animals (aka US army) are occupying our holy land and torturing/humiliating/killing our brethrens but no, thats not enough for them, they have to rape anf pillage our sisters their aswell. It makes me angry to the point where i wish that non of the animals never come back alive from Iraq, espescially the offending animals. If i could kill them myself i would for it would be justice.

All i can say is that Allah will do justice and no one shall be spared for their crimes against Islam and its people, remeber Gulf War 1, most of the US army personel came back after the war and were struck by misterious and uncurable desieses and died. remember,Allah does not have to wait to punish people until judgement day.

As for this article, everything that has been prophesised that will happen near the end is coming true, one of the prophecie states, "The leaders will be the worst of the people" and as this article and everything else in life indicates, its true.

May Allah bless All the Muslims in the world and help us defeat this humiliation. Give strength and Help to those brothers and sisters who are being wronged and the people who are being opressed. may Allah give us guidence and and show us the right way, help us maintain Salat and good intention. may allah make every Muslim defenders of Islam and give us strength to rise.

Aneeta, Americans like Randy are apologists for empire and terror. Now we can add rape and torture to their pathology.
These people are sick and twisted to the core. Its a "fraternity hazing" when they murder, torture and rape Iraqis yet its a crime against humanity when an American buys the farm. This is standard American practice.
We dont need to answer or apologize to them for anything. I am sick and tired of them, their incessent whinning and lies. Truly an evil nation with an evil people.

Peace be with you, Ronni. F.Y.I., the author, Dr. Ivan Eland, IS an American politician. Dr. Eland has served our country (the U.S.A.) in his capacity as an expert on matters pertaining to defense. Also, my guess would be that he is a staunch Democrat. At any rate, Ronni, good luck in your HUGE putsch. ~:o)

Randy, what are you smoking? The last time I checked, it was the US who's invading Muslim nations, supporting repressive regimes to steal their resources so that your fat *** can drive a big SUV, and arming to the teeth a savage Jewish colony on Muslim lands. America launched two unprovoked attacks on Iraq with inhumane sanctions in between that cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives before any Iraqi touched a hair on an American citizen. Who's the rabid, filthy, savage, barbaric animal here? And why do you think it's better to impose on the Muslims your Talmudic/Masonic/Sodomite/Crusader/Prostitution religion (a.k.a. democracy)? If you have such a rabid animosity toward Muslims while your country is occupying their lands and bombing the living daylight out of them, then I wonder what your reaction would be if a Muslim army is currently occupying America, humiliating and murdering innocent Americans on the street, destroyed the civilian infrastructure, and torturing and sexually abusing American men and women in the prisons? This is your war! You started it, and you bear full responsibility for its consequences. And when a tiny portion of your filth boomerang back at you, you bitch and complain about it, and accuse your bleeding victim rather than your criminal self.

Randy, what are you smoking? The last time I checked, it was the US who's invading Muslim nations, supporting repressive regimes to steal their resources so your fat *** can drive a big SUV, and arming to the teeth a savage Jewish colony on Muslim lands. America launched two unprovoked attacks on Iraq with inhumane sanctions in between that cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives before any Iraqi touched a hair on an American citizen. Who's the rabid, filthy, savage, barbaric animal here? And why do you think it's better to impose on the Muslims your Talmudic/Masonic/Sodomite/Crusade religion (a.k.a. democracy)? If you have such a rabid animosity toward Muslims while your country is occupying their lands and bombing the living daylight out of them, then I wonder what your reaction would be if a Muslim army is currently occupying America, humiliating and murdering innocent Americans on the street, destroyed the civilian infrastructure, and torturing and sexually abusing American men and women in the prisons? This is your war! You started it, and you bear full responsibility for its consequences. And when a tiny portion of your filth boomerang back at you, you bitch and complain about it, and accuse your bleeding victim rather than your criminal self.

To randy:

I seriously disagree with the claim that murder is worse than torture. Many victims of torture have said that during torture they have often begged for death. Torture is terrible and unbearable pain. When one dies, it's over.

I'd rather be in Nick Berg's shoes than the Iraqis who were raped, sodomized, mutilated with wild dogs, and horrifically beaten.

If Randy prefers suffering to death then that's his view...but I think it's nuts.

saddam bush is responsible for the thugs and criminals he sent to invade Iraq. He must resign or be impeached by the world court.

Woww!! Its funny how I was 100% certain Ronni was American before I read the country. As I have said in other postings, you can't just ignorantly believe the information that you are spoonfed because there is always much more to it than that. There has been much evidence that there were attempts at covering up these occurances yet, ignorant people will simply ignore them because the TV told them to, while intelligent people will actually use their own minds and find out the truth for themselves instead of simply relying on the biased minds of others on TV and other media sources. Its so easy for the rest of the world to see how ignorant and brainswashed most Americans are - but you are so ignorant that you cannot see it for yourselves. God save you.

This is a very one-sided article, typical of Eland. He quotes only certain Republicans, who we know are going to make comments like that for their leader. From the NY Times & others: "All afternoon, a parade of solemn Senate and House members filed into secure rooms in the Capitol and in the House Rayburn Office Building to view about 1,800 images, many of them duplicates, along with some video clips. The lawmakers emerged shaken and aghast, even though they had already seen some of the images in news photographs." Here are some quotes from other lawmakers after viewing pictures:

"I don't know how the hell these people got into our army," said Colorado Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell after viewing what he called a fraction of the images.

"I saw cruel, sadistic torture," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.

"What we saw is appalling," the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee
"Others, both Democrat and Republican, said the images renewed their determination that the abuse had to be fully investigated, and some said the pictures made them doubt that the mistreatment was limited to a handful of low-level soldiers."
Americans HAVE TO KEEP THE PRESSURE ON the Bush admin & co. We cannot let this atrocity be swept away. The Bush administration has dragged our country through the mud long enough!!!!!!!!!!

Once again the Bush administration is in denial. Pretending that things do not exist because they do not benefit their purpose seems to be the forte' of this government. The abuses are not 'just a few'as they want us to believe. The government does not aknowledge the Palestinians but that does not mean they do not exist. I am ashamed to be an American right now.

I have a photo of a sister and I pray to Allah (SWT)it will not be put out for public view. All she was going through made me color the photo as I cried,so she would be covered once again. The pain and terror in her eyes was what struck my stomach the worst. She is one of the 4,000 rape cases that have occurred in the desert, not in any jail. These cases are just doctor documented, no women wants to admit it. I wonder how many more unreported rapes have occurred that did not need medical attention?

I beg every independent journalist or humanitarian group to find out about the women and children being dragged to the desert and raped. I suggest that you go to every hospital and find out how many young girls have come in with their hymen broken while their mothers cry for the doctor to lie in the report.

No women will admit to the abuse of themselves or of their children because of the shame it would bring to their family and community, but that does not mean it does not exist. The doctors can tell the true stories through their medical expertise.

Sex is an obsession in this country. Check the history records and you will find sexually orientated scandals have plaqued our military a long time. The Phillipines is a good example. In our own Civil War, is was common practice to cut off the genitals of African-American males.

I am pleading to journalists to investigate the history of our militaries' records. We have a serious problem in this country and it needs to be addressed. Compiling an accurate historical account may be a start if the right people get to see it.

Where is your article condemning the barbaric tactics of Muslim extremists, such as burning victims alive before hanging them on display, or slowly sawing the head off a living person? Torture is bad--murder is worse. Your self-righteous indignation is disgusting, and it is such "the world is against us" doctrine that makes the extremists so violent and inhumane in their treatment of anyone who dares disagree with them. The third crusade? It is already occurring across the world, as radical Muslims attempt to overthrow secular governments, abolish democracy, and establish one world religion. If you don't believe it, you are a fool.

Ronni, why are you so idignant? What is perceived as shame for the USA is real and factual pain for the Iraqis(and the whole islamic world). It happened. It shouldn't have, but it did, period. You have to live with it for a long time. God willing it will be a turning point in the US leadership by which the face of America will be secured for the future. You have to admit Ronni, that the world expects the best from a superpower that acts as a global judge. When USA and the allies were fighting the Nazis in Europe, did anybody expect them to rape and sodomize the population of Germany? From a report on CNN released by army security, stated that 70 to 80% of the inmates at Abu Ghraib were there by mistake. They had nothing to do with the insurgents, the resistance or any terrorist group. As CNN said, "now the army made them brandnew enemies". Well, enybody that would experience first hand the American grass-roots culture of "manly" sex, humiliation by nudity, simply put, ungodly indecency, would become an enemy of the state, wouldn't you Ronni?! To our misfortune, a bunch of thugs under the cloak of islam decided to cut off the most important body part of poor Mr Berg. You cannot bring this latter act as an excuse for the US army's misconduct, simply because US army is the representative the world's most advanced democracy, while the executioners are just desperadoes acting on their own, out of their own believes and jurisdiction. I am a Canadian Muslim but I wouldn't like to fall in their hands, maybe if I disagreed they would behead me too. So, please, when you refer to Muslims chose the ones that dignify Islam. Coming back to our geese, Ronni, it is expected that the US government takes steps toward a due process. My question to you is, how much coverup will be there? How many less guilty will be ascared in to deals and made to get the most of the rap while true criminals in the army b/c of their high position will be hushed. Let's hope though, it won't happen again

Okay. This article is a waste of Web space. Is the author just TRYING to make things up to be upset about?

The American public AND it's politicians are outraged that U.S. soldiers could carry out such acts. There is a HUGE push throughout this nation to prosecute not only the soldiers that were directly involved, but those in charge of the prison and all the way up the later, as far as Rumsfeld and holding people accountable for these attrocities.

There is a push for the pictures to come out so that we can demonstrate that we are not a nation that turns it's back on the wrongdoings of our own citizens. And also to demonstrate that we bring such people to justice.

Poeple like this author are simply trying to inflame heated passions further by making the baseless claims that American politicians aren't responding appropriately.

People like this will likely never be satisfied with anything we do.

I think what is best is that we should reflect our selves as human beings, this was happening to our brothers and sisters in a very low-rate moral, disgusting, and shameful. The reflection shouldn't be all about politics, but more about life, and death, and appreciation of freedom and humanity. What the US troops done with the iraqi prisoners cannot be tolerate, and much important is that we should do more about our Islamic world and Islamic society, and aware that those inhumanity acts towards muslims society has been going on for a long time in many countries and merely never exposed properly by the press. The most simple thing we can do is pray, and hopefully this tragedy won't ended up missing from our memory, but we keep it in our mind to make our anger more reasonable by struggling for justice in anyways we could.

Yes, "All parties-the Bush administration, the uniformed military and members of Congress-appear to be behaving badly in this scandal." indeed, Mr Landl. But who can challege them? That how they feel, this is their time, afterall when they invade Iraq against all world opinion, what happened to them?
The mistake has already been committed by the world, and it was aided by no other than the closest neighbour of Iraq, Saudi Arabia. The crusade is just beginning. What I fear is that as more attrocities are being made public these three groups may get agitated and the methods of annihilation might change and then what everybody draid, "the clash of civilisations"(?) may unfold with all the consequencies that will make second world war look like a child's play. May Allah forbids. But the American people need to wake up from their sleep and feel the actions of the dumbs they elected(?) to power during the last elections.


I live in the US and I can say honestly that the article couldn't be more wrong. The only thing I see on the media here is constant pictures of Iraqi prisoners abused. I have not heard one polictican defend anything about this whole situation. Every politician has come out strongly against these acts as deplorable, they've even called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. Those responsible have already been arrested and will stand for a courts martialed. I haven't seen any evidence of anyone trying to avoid accountability. This article is very one sided and just dead wrong. The acts were horrible and bring shame upon America, and you would be hard pressed to find one American who isn't disgusted by these "soldiers" actions. It's just not true.

-Mike D

I think some members of the military were merely pretending to "obstruct justice" - for the sake of appearances. So then, what high-level civilian "other than Rumsfeld" are they demanding be fired?

Care to tell that to millions of Iraqis under a terrorist occupation, thinker ?

lets all put this in the past and move on to peace on earth goodwill to man