Andrew Sullivan has a post today (er, I guess yesterday) about how we’re apparently kidnapping innocent people in Iraq in order to leverage them against their spouses or relatives. ABCNews has the larger story here.
Think with me back to the Abu Ghraib mess. Not the photos we all saw and the things we all heard, but the rumors of worse being kept from us.
Seymour Hersch talked about it in this interview:
SEYMOUR HERSH: I don’t know what it stands for, but out of Virginia. They just got a huge new contract. These are people who do hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business. They provide interpreters, among other things; that’s part of their business. The private companies were all over Abu Ghraib, and they had local — one of the people, one of the men from the private companies was — did have forcible sex with — there’s women in the prisons, which is also a big contentious problem for the Iraqi population. The women are held in a separate unit, but they have children; and one of the children and one of the women was raped by a boy. There are photographs. There is testimony –
AMY GOODMAN: Was raped by –
SEYMOUR HERSH: One of the guards, rather. And witnessed by Americans taking photographs. There is testimony that has not been made public about this. I know that there’s been statements made in various military proceedings. And the government’s been very chary about writing — putting out any information. People witnessed it. They had cameras, and I believe they were video cameras. They could have been still cameras. There were cameras photographing it, and the boy was screaming. But I don’t have a videotape of it. I haven’t seen a videotape of it. I know that such testimony has been given.
Now, there are some allegations that Hersch changed his story, that he claimed to have seen the video tape of the boy’s rape and that now he’s claiming he only heard about it. But I wondered at the time why there were even kids in the prison.
Were we, as a matter of course, kidnapping and detaining innocent family members of people we want to intimidate?
According to the Red Cross and people in the Army, yes.
The Red Cross also delineated eyewitness testimony of the abuse of these children. Provance, who was stationed at Abu Ghraib, told the media that interrogating officers had gotten their hands on a 15-or-16-year-old girl. Military Police apparently only stopped the interrogation when the girl was half-undressed. A separate incident described a 16-year-old boy being soaked with water, driven through the cold, smeared with mud, and then presented before his weeping father, who was also a prisoner.
We couldn’t get this kid’s dad to talk until we threatened his kid (I know some of you might argue that being soaked in water and driven around all muddy is no worse than some kind of college prank. I would argue that the point of the exercise was to show the kid’s dad that we had no moral hesitation about using his kid to force him to talk. It wasn’t what we did to the kid so much as that we did anything at all to him.).
So, I guess the difference between what we knew after Abu Ghraib and what we know now is that now we have official military documents showing that this was a wide-spread practice and not just the word of witnesses.
“It’s very hard, obviously, from some of these documents to determine what, if anything, actually happened,” says the Pentagon spokesman.
Gee, yes, if we just keep looking at each individual bit of information as having no relevance to other bits of information, it is hard to determine “what, if anything, actually happened.”
But if you step back and look at everything together, the picture becomes pretty damn clear. We kidnap and lock up children, putting them in situations where they might be raped by sadistic guards, as a way to intimidate their families.
If we’re going to do terrible things, let’s at least be honest about the terrible things we’re doing.