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May 1, 2004

Americans Being Held at US Torture Prison in Iraq?


by Mark Rothschild

American citizens held since 2003 at the Abu Ghraib military prison may be among those imprisoned and tortured by the US military in Iraq. The American General in charge of U.S. prisons in Iraq, Brig. Gen Janis Karpinski, said in September 2003 that Americans being held at the Abu Ghraib prison were being interrogated by US military intelligence. The prisoners, said Karpinski, spoke with American accents.

Now that photographs of US torture victims have been displayed on the front pages of numerous newspapers, the fate of the other 12,000 detainees in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison has become a focus of concern.

US Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who is no longer in Iraq, commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade. It is unclear whether she has been suspended or will face charges, but she has not been relieved of her command. Six members of the Brigade she commanded are facing criminal charges in an investigation that has taken three months and is still not at a stage where the US military will comment on the identities of the personnel being charged.

The torture pictures leaked to the TV program 60 Minutes do not include other pictures still being withheld by the US military that reportedly show bodies of prisoners beaten to death and being attacked by guard dogs.

However, the New Yorker magazine has revealed that it has in its possession a secret U.S. Army report on the horrors taking place at Abu Ghraib prison detailing, in the words of the leaked report, "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses."

The secret Army report admits to the rape and sodomizing of prisoners and the burning of prisoners with liquid chemicals. Its report was completed a month after the Army’s internal investigation of torture at Abu Ghraib prison began in January, but has remained classified.

Will the full extent of the horrors of Abu Ghraib prison ever be reveled or will the atrocities at Abu Ghraib remain incomplete, known only from a few leaked pictures and documents? This is a question that will probably be answered in the near future.

Amnesty International, an organization that has been investigating "frequent reports of torture" in Coalition prisons, said the torture pictures were, "not an isolated incident," and that there was a "real crisis of leadership in Iraq .…" Amnesty has joined the growing chorus of voices demanding an independent inquiry: "There must be a fully independent, impartial and public investigation into all allegations of torture. Nothing less will suffice."

Brigadier General Ricardo S. Sanchez, who bears ultimate responsibility for US military actions in Iraq, has refused to discuss the issue of personal responsibility — including his own — and his spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt has implied that the names of those responsible may never be released.

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Mark Rothschild lives and writes from Los Angeles, California. Comments or questions are welcome.

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