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Welcome To Hell...
Behind the walls of U.S. Detainee Prisons
By Jerri Ann Lewis

As many as 43,000 Iraqi citizens have been captured and detained by United States soldiers during the time of the American occupation. These prisoners were housed in a prison of which Saddam Hussein once controlled. His prisons were known for the harsh cruelty and torturous acts that occurred within its walls. At the start of the war half of the prisonís command was turned over to American military. However, the once abusive nature of the prison returned, not by Hussein, but by some of the soldiers of the United States of America. To make matters worse, an estimated 70 to 90 percent of the detainees have been imprisoned by mistake.1 Welcome to Hell as we look into the tortuous events that occurred behind these walls.

The Iraqi prisoners, as well as many human rights groups, have given details of the interrogation methods used by United States Military Police and Military Intelligence while they were in custody. Our government officials admit to some of these methods including sleep deprivation, shock therapy, mind games, sensory deprivation, and forcing detainees to remain in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time.2 The acknowledgment of these techniques raise obvious questions:

To what extent were these methods used?
The answers to this question may never be completely known; however, the photographs, videos, and statements by Iraqi prisoners of war and the relatives of some of the soldiers suggest clues to what occurred. Some of the photographs, staged or not, show prisoners threatened with dogs, handcuffed in strange positions, and stripped naked with bags over their heads.3 "Video clips showed a prisoner being struck across the face and another in handcuffs being dragged across the floor. Another video clip showed five hooded and naked detainees standing against the wall in the darkness, each masturbating, with two other hooded detainees crouched at their feet."4

How far were the MP's allowed to go in the use these measures?
This question is still under investigation, nevertheless, it is believed that the scandal may have entailed more than sexual humiliation and some physical abuse. "We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges." evoked Senator Lindsey Graham.5 Military officials are currently examining over 20 murder cases of Iraqi prisoners by Americans, and two have been confirmed as homicides.6

If ordered to use these coercive techniques, how far up the chain-of-command did the order go?
The abuse scandal goes "much higher" than the young American guards watching over Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad," said Senator Joe Biden.7 The abuse by soldiers at Abu Ghraib is being examined as to what degree superior officers may have been involved in ordering or participating in the abuse. Major General George Fay has been assigned to determine the person(s) responsible for the abuse. However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must decide whether or not to delay the investigation in order to replace Fay with Army General John Abizaid due to the Army regulation that prohibits officers from questioning officers above their rank. This would open the doors to the scrutiny of involvement of commanding officers at much higher levels.8

No matter what the outcome of the investigations, nothing can excuse the hell that the Iraqi detainees went through at the hands of these U.S. soldiers, not even Rush Limbaugh:

This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation, and we're going to ruin people's lives over it, and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?9

Thoughts such as these are what led to the abusive treatment of the Iraqi prisoners of war. What occurred during their imprisonment was wrong and disgraceful to America and all for which it stands. No one would want their friends, family members, or even animals treated in such a manner. So how can anyone condone the maltreatment of the Iraqi prisoners? If we cannot regain the control and prestige that America once had and put an end to the violence between us and countries like Iraq, horror stories will continue to erupt. The United States of America will no longer be a "Little Peace of Heaven". Instead, it will become "Hell on Earth".


1 Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Scott Wilson, "Mistreatment Of Detainees Went Beyond Guards' Abuse," Washington Post. May 10, 2004.
2 TIME magazine, May 17,2004 P.45.
3 AFP, "US braces for new disturbing accounts of Iraqi prisoner abuse," Yahoo News. May 10, 2004.
4 Jacqueline Frank, "New Images Amplify Abuse at Iraq Prison -Report," REUTERS. May 21, 2004.
5 AFP, "Scandal could become murder, rape inquiry," theage.com.au May 8, 2004.
6 Elsner, "U.S. Reveals Iraqi Prisoners Deaths as Scandal Grows," MYWAY. May 4, 2004.
7 Pete Yost, "Abuse Scandal Focuses on Bush Foundation," Associated Press. May 16, 2004.
8 Charles Aldinger, "Rumsfeld May Extend Scope of Iraq Abuse Probe," REUTERS. June 10, 2004.
9 Meyer, "Rush: MPs Just 'Blowing Off Steam'," CBSNews.com. May 6, 2004.

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