Child abused at Abu Ghraib to get parent to talk

This will certainly add some fuel to the controversy.

A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (news – web sites) said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father’s resistance to interrogators.

The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.

Whatever it takes. The new American Way, and the perfect formula for winning hearts and minds.

Update: Contemplating the approval by higher-ups of using attack dogs to terrify prisoners, Andrew Sullivan today comes to similar conclusions on our winning formula.

It seems to me to be getting clearer and clearer that Abu Ghraib was not the work of a few rogue soldiers. The dogs are among the least troubling tactics, of course. But when you also consider that up to 80 percent of the inmates at Abu Ghraib were guilty of nothing, you have to wonder who thought this was a good way to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

The Discussion: 11 Comments

What is terrifying and disappointing that post Saddam Iraq is being run like Saddam had run it, Abu Ghraib is business as usual just that the jailers are foreign liberators-turned-oppressors. Saddam would be pleased that his game of toture continues.

June 12, 2004 @ 10:24 pm | Comment

And according to the Nuremberg trials of the Nazis, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz etc deserve the defendant stand at Hague like Milosevic and Wiranto.

June 12, 2004 @ 10:26 pm | Comment

I don’t think that Abu Ghraib in any way — any way at all — compares to the brutalities of what Saddam inflicted on his people. But then, we expected that from Saddam. We don’t expect it from the liberators. And I’m afraid history will show techniques like this were ordered from high up the chain of command. What were we thinking?

June 12, 2004 @ 10:52 pm | Comment

sp and Richard, I’m inclined to think the truth lies somewhere between your respective positions, and both are good points. I feel the difference between Saddam and the occupation is one of degree, although we’d need to leave it up to the people of Iraq to make any coherent comparison.

But I think the present is already demonstrating that responsibility lies very high up the chain of command. What’s with these memos outlining loopholes in international law that would allegedly allow the US to torture prisoners?

As for this being unexpected, I’m sorry Richard, but this is not the first instance of American war crimes. The name My Lai ring a bell? It should have come completely out of left field, but unfortunately there are precedents.

June 13, 2004 @ 1:31 am | Comment

Aren’t “we” the good guys meant to take the moral route on Iraq. I though that the price of being on the side of truth, morality and justice was that “we” wern’t supposed to to these things, even if it meant letting these people go.

I know that at a time of war morals sometimes have to be put to one side, but this stinks. A democratic and free nation shouldn’t stoop to this barbarity, no mater what the provokation.

June 13, 2004 @ 3:35 am | Comment

Chris, I don’t want to parse this to death, but I do see My Lai in a different light.

In Vietnam, soldiers were under a unique kind of strain that almost invited civilian atrocities. This is because, unlike in earlier wars, “the enemy” usually wore no uniform. So the farmer in the field or the kid behind the water buffalo could at any instant pull out a machine gun and kill you. The pressure and terror on the US soldier must have been immense, fighting there ina war they didn’t understand against an enemy they couldn’t see. This is no excuse, of course, but it helps to at least make it clear why My Lai and other acts of atrociities occurred there. They occur in every war, because that’s just what war does. But Vietnam was perfect for breeding the My Lai-type scenario.

But it differs from Abu Ghraib in another important way. The My Lais, to the best of my knowledge, were not sanctioned or ordered from high up the chain of command. They weren’t committed to achieve a real or imagined strategic purpose, as were the crimes at Abu Ghraib. They were about revenge and rage, as most atrocities against civilians in wartime are.

Abu Ghraib, I strongly suspect, was far different — it was choreographed. It was policy. So I can’t put it in the same category. Nor can I say that My Lai points to any particularly American inclination toward civilian brutality. Go to any war, and you will see much the same, and usually far, far worse.

June 13, 2004 @ 12:10 pm | Comment


What you are saying is that My Lai was a war crime and the soldiers should be court-martialed, and the prision abuse is a war crime and the politicians should be tried.

As for civilian brutality, Rwanda, Indonesia and Africa, these conflicts make the American attrocities look like friendly protests.

It is true that when you compair your average Amercan soldier to a British soldier who was trained in northern Ireland, the American is about as much use in an urban conflict as a flamethrower is in a fight in a in a gas works, but compair him to an African rebel who cuts a womans hands of for pleasure, then he’s a nice man to see on the streets.

June 13, 2004 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

What you are saying is that My Lai was a war crime and the soldiers should be court-martialed, and the prision abuse is a war crime and the politicians should be tried.

ACB, did I really say that? I respect you, but you have a tendency to put words in people’s mouths. I don’t remember saying a word — not a single word — about how anyone should be courtmartialed for My Lai. I did try to draw some distinctions between the two events, because they are not exactly parallel.

Let me try to state things in a simpler manner. If it were proven that the orders for My Lai came from high up the chain of command and that massacring peasants was a secretly codified and sanctioned aspect of US policy, in violation of international and US law, then I’d want to see those higher-ups called to account. Just as in the case of Abu Ghraib, where it asppears we have higher-ups secretly codfifying and sanctioning acts of torture that go against the Geneva Conventions and US/international law. However, to the best of my knowledge — and I am no scholar on My Lai — there was no such order from on high to massacre the peasants. I don’t see comparing the two events to be a fair comparison.

June 13, 2004 @ 6:56 pm | Comment

Richard, my point was simply that such things have happened. I didn’t intend to draw any parallels between My Lai and Abu Ghraib in particular. But you’re right, My Lai is not a good example. It was simply the first that sprang to mind. Sorry.

You also write: “Nor can I say that My Lai points to any particularly American inclination toward civilian brutality.”

That was totally not my point at all. Bloody Sunday springs to mind, now that Northern Ireland has been mentioned.

Sorry, I should’ve thought things through more carefully before I commented.

My reaction was to your apparent surprise that this could now happen, from the good guys. As I think we all seem to agree, when a war starts, the good guys suddenly turn out to be not so good after all.

June 13, 2004 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

Chris, totally clear. As to your last point, which is right-on, you’ll also notice that with nearly every war, the atrocities were mainly or only committed by the losers. Or at least that’s how history tells it.

June 13, 2004 @ 7:38 pm | Comment

Right, that’s how history tells it. This time around we have the media actually doing its job, trying to keep the bastards honest.

I was reading about the 60th anniversary of D-Day recently and was surprised to come across allegations of allied troops raping and pillaging their way through Normandy- not unexpected but not something I’d ever heard before.

I could rant a lot longer on this topic, but the point has been made.

June 14, 2004 @ 7:03 am | Comment

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