The Guardian May 12, 2004


Bush must answer for torture of Iraqis

Army Major General Antonio Taguba used blunt language: "US 
Army soldiers have committed egregious acts and grave breaches of 
international law at Abu Ghraib  sadistic, blatant, and 
criminal abuses".

These were the conclusions in a 53-page report on the abuse of 
detainees at the Abu Ghraib and Bucca prisons in Iraq which he 
delivered to the Pentagon in February. The administration covered 
up the explosive report for more than two months until the story 
was finally aired on CBS' 60 Minutes. At Pentagon request, CBS 
delayed airing the story for two weeks until they learned that 
the New Yorker planned to break the story with an expose 
by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

The findings are buttressed by dozens of photographs proving that 
US occupation troops engaged in torture against Iraqi civilians, 
most of them innocent men and women caught up in US military 
sweeps.

That torture was carried out in the very prison that gained 
infamy under the rule of Saddam Hussein. The US military police 
officers considered their practices so routine that they snapped 
photos and shot videos as they forced their captives to strip 
naked, and engage in simulated sex and masturbation.

Taguba reported that the soldiers broke fluorescent light tubes 
over their captives' backs and poured phosphoric liquid on them, 
raped a detainee with a chemical light and a broomstick, and 
unleashed attack dogs that in one case severely maimed a 
prisoner.

The report reveals that many detainees were beaten or shot to 
death, some while attempting to escape. Taguba quotes Commander 
Bruce Falcone of the 220th Military Police Brigade saying that 
MPs shot three inmates dead last November 23 when "detainees 
rioted in protest of their living conditions".

The photographs of these US war crimes are now on the front pages 
of newspapers everywhere, aired on television in every corner of 
the globe. It has re-ignited long-ignored reports of torture and 
abuse in other US military prisons around the world, notably 
Afghanistan and the US Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

These revelations expose the hypocrisy in George W Bush's claim 
that he ordered the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq to "liberate" 
the Iraqi people. On the streets of Baghdad, Iraqis now say 
angrily that the "occupation troops removed Saddam Hussein and 
gave us George W Bush".

This scandal comes on top of 134 dead and 900 wounded US soldiers 
in April, the worst month since the war began. The numbers of 
Iraqi dead are unknown but at least 600 civilians have died in 
the abortive US siege of Falluja, according to Iraqi doctors 
there.

Polls show American support for the Iraq war plummeting. The 
White House is in "damage control" mode, pinning blame for the 
Abu Ghraib atrocities on low-ranking military police. But the 
responsibility does not stop with a few MPs or commanders. George 
W Bush, the commander-in-chief, must answer for these crimes. 
General Taguba's report makes clear that "this systemic and 
illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated" and the 
perpetrators were encouraged by military intelligence to use 
torture to "soften up" the detainees to "insure a successful 
interrogation".

It brings home with full force why the Bush administration 
exempts itself from international tribunals on war crimes even as 
it insists that other nations be held accountable for violations 
of those same laws.

The Bush administration should be held fully accountable under 
international law. But we the people must also hold this 
administration accountable for crimes carried out in our name.

Thirty-five years ago, Americans and the world heard revelations 
of the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians by US 
soldiers in the village of My Lai. Those reports, accompanied by 
graphic photos of the slaughtered women and babies, sent shock 
waves through our nation, and US public opinion began to tilt 
heavily against the Vietnam War.

The My Lai atrocities were part and parcel of a bloody US foreign 
policy. So, too, the Abu Ghraib crimes must be laid at the 
doorstep of George W Bush and his administration's arrogant war 
policy, with its utter contempt for truth and for human lives. 
Bush and his top officials are war criminals who should face an 
international tribunal.

It's high time to end their immoral imperial crusade. Iraq must 
be returned to the Iraqi people. Bring the UN in and bring the US 
troops home.

And we must redouble our efforts for a huge vote to remove George 
W Bush from the White House  the most lawless chief executive 
in history.

* * *
From the editorial of People's Weekly World

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