The Spark

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

Torture in U.S. military prisons:
Not just Abu Ghraib, not because of "lack of training"

Oct 10, 2005

A new report by Human Rights Watch contains testimony from three soldiers who participated in torturing detainees at U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the soldiers is identified as Capt. Ian Fishback of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division; the other two, both sergeants from the same division, asked not to be identified. Capt. Fishback, who also reported the torture incidents to the offices of two U.S. senators, said that he decided to go public after trying in vain to get his superiors to do something about it for 17 months.

The three soldiers described in detail daily, systematic torture incidents involving severe beatings, exposure to extreme hot and cold as well as to corrosive chemicals, stacking in human pyramids and sleep deprivation. Most of these reported abuses took place in Camp Mercury near Falluja, between September 2003 and April 2004. That is, all this was going on during the height of the media attention to Abu Ghraib. "We still did it, but we were careful," said one of the sergeants.

The three soldiers testified that they learned the torture techniques they used from watching CIA agents interrogating detainees in Afghanistan. And, like the torturers of Abu Ghraib, these three Camp Mercury torturers said that they abused detainees in order to "soften them up" before interrogation, as ordered by military intelligence officers. The soldiers felt so confident about having a free hand to torture detainees that they did it even "for amusement," as one soldier put it. Once, an army cook showed up in the detention area, ordered a detainee to bend over and broke his leg with a metal baseball bat. One of the soldiers said that they "kept it to broken arms or legs," because they were ordered to be careful not to kill detainees.

The Bush administration and military claimed that Abu-Ghraib was an isolated case, that there was no systematic policy to torture detainees, that the horrendous abuses captured in the infamous Abu Ghraib photos were the result of a "lack of training." These testimonies from an elite army unit put the lie to this crap.

But then, it's not the first time these lies are being exposed. Anybody who reads the newspaper or watches the news on TV must be aware of the systematic nature of torture at U.S. military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Since torture at Abu Ghraib was revealed one and a half years ago, the Army alone has opened more than 400 inquiries on reported cases of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, the Washington Post released memos signed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, clearly giving his approval for torture and even suggesting that some of the techniques used were too mild!

And yet, so far, nobody ranked higher than prison guards has been put on trial for torture. All those military intelligence and CIA agents who, in testimony after testimony, are said to have ordered and carried out torture, are left off the hook. All the military officers in charge of the torture prisons are left off the hook. All those higher-ranked officers up the chain of command, whose knowledge, approval and cover-up of torture is well-documented in memos and testimonies, are left off the hook. And Rumsfeld and Bush and that whole gang of crooks, whose instructions to military officers to use torture is well-documented, are left off the hook.

But then, who would seriously expect war criminals to prosecute themselves and voluntarily go to jail? The population of this country and of all those countries abused by them are the only ones who can call them to account.