The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

U.S. Torture at Abu Ghraib:
Part of wider war against Iraqi people

May 17, 2004

According to the International Red Cross report on the U.S. prison system, U.S. military officers informed them last winter that among the tens of thousands of Iraqis held in the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison as well as the 13 other U.S.-run prison camps that the Red Cross inspected, 90% were completely innocent. Obviously, that never stopped the U.S. military from continuing to arrest, detain and torture countless Iraqis, hundreds of thousands of them.

The torture at Abu Ghraib is not some accident, mistake or simply limited to a few people like Donald Rumsfeld and his gang at the Pentagon say, echoed by the U.S. news media and the rest of the politicians. No, it is simply part of the U.S. war and occupation against an entire people who are opposing the attempt of the U.S. to dominate their country.

From the beginning of the war, the U.S. military machine targeted the people of Iraq. In the first weeks of the war, the U.S. aimed bombs, rockets and missiles at Iraqi cities. The U.S. military and the media might have pretended these were surgical strikes that largely spared the Iraqi people. But the reality is that in those first weeks of the war, the U.S. killed 10,000 Iraqis, most of whom were ordinary people, men, women and children. Even the fact that the U.S. government advertised this campaign with the name "Shock and Awe" reveals that their real aim was to terrorize the population.

In the months that followed, as the opposition to the U.S. occupation became an active guerrilla insurgency to push the U.S. out, the U.S. began a series of military offensives. In these offensives, the U.S. military was never fighting a standing army on some battlefield. No, after an insurgent attack, the Iraqi resistance melted away into the population from which it came. So the U.S. began to target the population in the small towns and big cities. The aim, of course, was to break the will of the Iraqi people. In fact, all this did was inflame opposition to the U.S. even more.

The U.S. escalated its war, once again bombing several cities in March and April. In Falluja, one of the centers of Iraqi resistance to the U.S., U.S. bombs, missiles and shells killed several hundred men, women and children. The pictures of stacks of bodies were carried in major newspapers and television channels around the world – but not very often in this country.

The U.S. prison camps filled with ordinary Iraqis, including children and elderly people. The systematic torture, rape and humiliation of so many of them was just a part of the broader U.S. war.

Many of the critics of the war point a finger at the Bush administration, saying that it is responsible for the horrendous atrocities in Iraq. Certainly, the Bush administration does bear a heavy responsibility. But the U.S. atrocities in Iraq are hardly unique.

We should not forget how U.S. bombings and massacres during the Viet Nam war killed over two million Vietnamese. Nor should we forget the My Lai massacre, during which U.S. troops killed 600 women, children and elderly people in just one afternoon, as well as all the other massacres. Nor can we forget how the U.S. kept captured Vietnamese and held them under torturous conditions in what were called tiger cages, or how U.S. troops deliberately pushed Vietnamese out of helicopters, as part of their so-called interrogation?

In Latin and Central America the U.S. has carried out dozens of wars, either with its own so-called "advisers," or with troops trained, armed and paid for by the U.S. The School of the Americas, run by the U.S. military at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, gives regular courses in different forms of torture for military officers from all over Latin America.

No, the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and the war in Iraq is just the continuation of a long-term policy toward the rest of the world. The logic of these atrocities can be summed up by U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Sassman, who told the New York Times in December 2003, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence... I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." It is a familiar refrain from the U.S. military when occupying foreign countries. Who can forget during the Viet Nam war, the U.S. military officer who said that a town had to be destroyed in order to save it.