Sy Hersh’s second New Yorker article on Iraqi prisoner abuse

Tell us Rush, does this look like a frathouse hazing to you?

As everyone here knows, it’s very easy to go completley numb beneath the veritable deluge of information raining down about Abu Ghraib prison abuses and how the Bushies’ line that “it was just a handful of bad apples” is an obscene lie.

Still, there’s going to be a lot more to come — pictures, videos, courtmartials, confessions, senior military officers saying we are now losing the war badly, renewed calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation, etc.

The next big thing is the release today of Seymour Hersh’s second New Yorker article on Abu Ghraib, which will add more fuel to the fire. Its focus is the incompetence of Rumsfeld and the Defense Department, though it also prepares us for what the next round of phtos will look like.

One of the new photographs shows a young soldier, wearing a dark jacket over his uniform and smiling into the camera, in the corridor of the jail. In the background are two Army dog handlers, in full camouflage combat gear, restraining two German shepherds. The dogs are barking at a man who is partly obscured from the camera’s view by the smiling soldier. Another image shows that the man, an Iraqi prisoner, is naked. His hands are clasped behind his neck and he is leaning against the door to a cell, contorted with terror, as the dogs bark a few feet away.

Other photographs show the dogs straining at their leashes and snarling at the prisoner. In another, taken a few minutes later, the Iraqi is lying on the ground, writhing in pain, with a soldier sitting on top of him, knee pressed to his back. Blood is streaming from the inmate’s leg. Another photograph is a closeup of the naked prisoner, from his waist to his ankles, lying on the floor. On his right thigh is what appears to be a bite or a deep scratch. There is another, larger wound on his left leg, covered in blood.

There is at least one other report of violence involving American soldiers, an Army dog, and Iraqi citizens, but it was not in Abu Ghraib. Cliff Kindy, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a church-supported group that has been monitoring the situation in Iraq, told me that last November G.I.s unleashed a military dog on a group of civilians during a sweep in Ramadi, about thirty miles west of Fallujah. At first, Kindy told me, “the soldiers went house to house, and arrested thirty people.” (One of them was Saad al-Khashab, an attorney with the Organization for Human Rights in Iraq, who told Kindy about the incident.) While the thirty detainees were being handcuffed and laid on the ground, a firefight broke out nearby; when it ended, the Iraqis were shoved into a house. Khashab told Kindy that the American soldiers then “turned the dog loose inside the house, and several people were bitten.”

If you’re following this story, you have to read it all. There’s no way Rumsfeld can survive this, but if you think about it, it’s not hard to see why they can’t let him go now. As Rummy himself cleverly warned us, the worst is yet to come, and it will make last week’s pictures pale in comparison. It would be a nightmare to fire Rummy now, and then bring on someone new, only to have to immediately face the next deluge of photos and videos and damning articles.

No, let Rummy continue to be the punching bag (not that he doesn’t deserve it). Let him take all the flak for the scandal. When all the bad stuff is out, then get rid of him so his successor can come onboard with a relatively clean slate. Not that it will matter — we’ve lost the war, in every respect. It’s over, no matter who replaces Rumsfeld.

Be sure to read the last graf of Hersh’s article to capture the exquisite irony of this mess. The most noble player of all, Major General Antonio M. Taguba , who scrupulously and thoroughly documented the horrors going on in Abu Ghraib, is now despised by his peers, who give short shrift to whistleblowers. (I read earlier that he’s been called back to DC, where he’ll be sitting at a desk job.) Oh, what a strange and startling episode….

UPDATE: Seymour Hersh’s 3rd article is just out, and it’s merciless.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

I wish I could be as sanguine as you are about the likelihood of Rummy resigning. But he won’t. Instead the Bushies and their PR department (namely, the media) will use the time-honored three-D technique — deflect, distort and deny — and as usual, they’ll get away, literally, with murder.

May 10, 2004 @ 2:03 am | Comment

Frankly, I’m not sure why this is a scandal. This kind of stuff is routine in US prisons, on American citizens.

I’m not saying it’s a good thing, I think it’s terrible, but why are you so upset about it happening to Iraqis and not upset about it happening domestically?

May 10, 2004 @ 12:34 pm | Comment

but why are
you so upset about it happening to Iraqis and not upset about it
happening domestically?

First, why would you say I am not concerned about this happening in the US? I am, and I often speak out against the government’s poor treatment of the powerless and the disenfranchised.

The case in Iraq is very special, and if you read what’s going on, top conservative leaders and even the editorial writers for newspapers for the US Armed Forces are upset about this — they are saying it could ruin all that we have invested in Iraq. You need to understand, the one thing that was going to make our efforts in Iraq work was our ability to win hearts and minds. That’s all. If we don’t do that we don’t have a prayer; if they hate us as much as Saddam, there was no point to the invasion. Remember, this was a liberation, assuring the Iraqi people the days of torture and rape were over.

Now, fair or not, we are seen as the torturers. Hundreds of billions of tax dollars have gone down the toilet. It also represents a fundamental loss of control over a highly volatile situation. And it spells the loss of our reputation everywhere. Many of the victims were arrested at random and committed no crimes. And it was done with the knowledge of people who are supposed to know much, much better.

Go read Andrew Sullivan’s posts from last night and this morning, and you will see why this is no small matter, and any comparisons to how the US treats domestic prisoners or to how Iraqi militants have treated our soldiers is totally irrelevant. If we are not seen as liberators, we face civil war and defeat. It is that serious.

May 10, 2004 @ 2:39 pm | Comment

OK, I agree that billions of dollars of goodwill can easily be destroyed with a few stupid actions.

However, I am doubtful that the average Iraqi, with no experience of civil rights, would care much if some anonymous prisoners were humiliated, or even injured, on camera. More likely the average citizen would make his judgements based on his own personal experience of the occupation, and thankfully, most Iraqis aren’t tossed into prison and humiliated.

More likely, as Andrew Sullivan intimated in the article you asked me to look at, the main fallout will be in the “psychological barometric pressure drop”, resulting in American loss of support for the occupation, because Americans seem to be very affected by this scandal, which is dealing a serious blow to their self-image.

May 10, 2004 @ 3:24 pm | Comment

I am doubtful that the average Iraqi, with no experience of civil rights, would care much if some anonymous prisoners were humiliated, or even injured, on camera.

I’m going to venture a guess that you don’t know much about Mideast/Muslim culture and how stories of Iraqis ridiculed naked and in front of women can offend them. Especially if the torturers are outsiders who invaded their country ostensibly to liberate them. Already Sadr has used thte story to garner new support and fresh supplies of young men willing to die to attack the Americans who did this (and in their eyes, unfortunately, it is ALL Americans who did this). Want perspective? Go to the blogs Baghdad Burning and Raed in the Middle and see how your Iraqis on the street are taking this. Or go over to Juan Cole’s blog; he’s a professor on Mideast affairs. But don’t make sweeping statements like the one above if you don’t have the evidence to back it up. You are virtually the only person, conservative or liberal, hawk or dove, who I’ve heard say this is not important to the average Iraqi. You are simply wrong.

May 10, 2004 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

just found your website and it´s good to see that´not all americans are as blind as public statements makes them come acroos. I have lived in the US and really like the country, but as an English teacher in Germany I am ahving a hard time depicting the Amrican principles as those based on “freedom, equality, etc.” Good to see your points here!

May 16, 2004 @ 4:30 am | Comment

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