USA - Abu Ghraib: A Nightmare Without End

The myth of an American military mission to build a democracy and liberate an oppressed people has been shattered to pieces. The photographs from Abu Ghraib depict scenes of physical brutality, sadist sexual abuse, and monstrous acts by American soldiers. The Bush administration and the military command in Iraq continue to deny knowledge and involvement, even while a flood of information from eyewitnesses provides proof to the contrary. However, the calls demanding justice from a domestic or international court are misleading; history shows us that only the working-class can end the war and bring the guilty to justice.

The myth of an American military mission to forge "Iraqi Freedom", to build a democracy and liberate an oppressed people, has been shattered to pieces by the incontestable proof of systematic torture of Iraqi prisoners, few of whom even had anything to do with the swiftly mounting insurgency. For millions of Americans the veil of righteousness has been torn down to tattered threads, and now they, along with the rest of the world, are meeting face-to-face with the grim and glaring visage of imperialism. Both the full essence of the terrible humiliation of the Iraqi people as well as the despoilment and rape of their nation are encapsulated in these images of barbarous torture. Physical brutality, sadist sexual abuse, and monstrous violations of all human decency by disgustingly gleeful American soldiers giving thumbs-ups while bent over their broken and bloodied victims are to be found in each and every photograph, of which there are now thousands; and countless more await in undiscovered or unexplored compact discs, on which the prison guards kept pictures and video recordings of their daily routine of criminality.

The irrefutable photographic evidence has provoked not only the now commonplace and customary denial of involvement and prior knowledge from each and every glossed brass link in the chain of command right up to Bush himself, but has also, as legal proceedings commence and the exposés of news magazines flourish, opened the floodgates for eyewitness accounts and confirmations of the extent and the origins of the brutality. And now with such a high level of media attention focused upon the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, generals and intelligence officials have come forward with proof that not only was the Bush administration aware of the widespread use of torture, but that Rumsfeld is directly responsible for preparing the ground for the specific program of savage interrogation which has been and continues to be applied mercilessly in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Rumsfeld and Abu Ghraib

The interrogation program began in the early days of the "War On Terror", when Rumsfeld became furious with the legal restrictions placed upon airstrikes. After failing to receive timely approval for the bombing of a convoy supposedly transporting Mullah Omar, Rumsfeld was reported to be in a fiery state, "kicking a lot of glass and breaking doors". He was convinced that the failures to kill or capture many Taliban officials and high-ranking members of Al-Qaeda were due to interference on the part of lawyers who would refuse to authorize attacks without proof that the targets were actually agents of terrorism or Taliban authorities. Rumsfeld, not one to allow wanton destruction to be prevented by the trifling matter of the potential massacring of innocents, formulated and put into effect what is known as a "Special Access Program" as a means by which to, in addition to promptly eliminating suspects in secrecy, acquire through intense and comprehensive interrogation that information from "enemy combatants" which would justify as "reasonable" the targets on Rumsfeld and co.'s agenda of extermination.

The rules of the SAP were summarized by an anonymous intelligence official as, "Grab whom you must. Do what you want." And in the chaos of a war hazy with the patriotic stupor of the post-9/11 months, quickly declared victorious and even more speedily "forgotten" by the media in the US, no-one seemed to notice the rampage of elite forces squads with licenses to sexually humiliate and physically terrorize any person they pleased in order to extract confessions and tip-offs of widely varying legitimacy. SAP's have been a classic instrument of aggressive, covert foreign policy, used by Washington since the opening of the Cold War for wide-ranging - and largely still classified - aims. In every instance of an SAP being enacted, the direct involvement of the Secretary of Defense was required to first conclude that normal procedure was inadequate for serving the interests of national security, and then to authorize the program itself. The anonymous ex-intelligence officer interviewed by the New Yorker magazine claims that Condoleeza Rice and President Bush were both informed of this program's existence.

As the war on Iraq commenced, Rumsfeld and the military leadership in Iraq transferred the program seamlessly to the new battleground, giving clearance to clandestine squads composed of Navy Seals, Delta Force commandos, and paramilitary experts from the C.I.A. to bypass law and living human tissue in a frenzied hunt for both evidence of weapons of mass destruction as well as the location of Saddam Hussein. By the Fall of 2003, the "coalition" had become mired in a bloody and increasing precarious occupation. By early September, the number of American soldiers killed in combat after the official declaration of the war's end exceeded the number killed during the actual war. Even as the Bush administration and the bourgeois media continued to feed the line that the insurgency was only the last few cells of die-hard Ba'athists organized into isolated pockets of resistance, the ranks of the anti-imperialist rebellion swelled with thousands of Iraqis driven to taking arms by the chaos and suffering caused by the new dictatorship, that of the American military and its agents. In an act of desperation to turn back the tide of the changing balance of forces in Iraq, Rumsfeld authorized the expansion of his SAP to include the interrogation of imprisoned civilian Iraqis, in order to uncover details about the membership, resources, and methods of the insurgent groups.

Stepen Cambone, hand-picked by Rumsfeld to fill the office of Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, having been given direct technical and tactical control of all SAPs related to the war on terror, carried out Rumsfeld's decision. Cambone enlisted the aid of Major-General Miller, the commander of the detention and interrogation facilities at Guantanamo, and directed him to apply his expertise in his field to the overhaul of prison procedure in Iraq. An official, internal Army report written by Major General Taguba states that Miller instructed the military commanders in Baghdad to hand administration of the prisons over to military intelligence. Miller is quoted as saying, "...detention centers must act as an enabler for interrogation." Cambone proceeded to give command over reservist military police to the SAP, and from that point forward a hidden and far-flung program of torture was clearly observable.

After two years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq in which there have been nearly one hundred reported cases of murdered prisoners, forced sexual acts upon and between prisoners, gross physical abuses consisting of unprovoked, spontaneous beatings, unleashed attack dogs, and the methodical breaking of fingers, toes, ribs and skulls, as well as constant psychological strain and traumatization, with many of these varied cruelties catalogued in ten separate reports written by and submitted by the Red Cross to American military command, a soldier-with-a-conscience named Joseph Darby finally stepped forward, presenting a compact disc of photographs and a statement of disgust to his officers. This disc eventually found its way to the CBS news network, followed closely by a visit of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, who, in a special "containment" mission the likes of which has become standard practice since 9/11, convinced CBS News that there were bigger and better stories to air. Two weeks later, it was the imminent publication in the New Yorker magazine of the essence of the Taguba report along with a selection of the photographs from the infamous compact disc which prompted CBS to finally break the story. Rumsfeld later complained to a group of senators that the leaking of the awareness of the depraved acts into public knowledge constituted a threat to national security.

Plausible Deniability

Representatives for the Bush Administration and the military command in Iraq, now that they could no longer maintain an outright denial of the tortures, denounced in haughty tones, charged with righteous morality, that the abuses were abhorrent, evil, and shocking in their malignity. They then proceeded to paint with the same coating of faux indignation every attempt to present evidence or logic that would attribute the scandal to anything more elaborate than a perverse circle of uncontrolled hicks. The recent testimony of Jeremy Sivits, a former army Specialist who recently pleaded guilty to four abuse-related crimes, would seem to corroborate the line from Washington.

Sivits insists that, while one unnamed fellow guard may have once said something about military intelligence wanting prisoners "softened-up" and that command wanted it done that way, Sivits certainly doesn't believe that was possible and that, rather, another Specialist named Graner was the ring-leader. Sivits, after agreeing to testify against the other six soldiers charged in Abu Ghraib crimes, was granted a "special Court Martial", and received the maximum sentence which that variety can allow: one year in prison, loss of rank, and a discharge. This sentence can be reduced or dismissed by the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, and is set for automatic review by the US military appeals court.

Out of the seven initially charged, every soldier other than Sivits has asserted that they were following orders either from their commanding officers or from Military Intelligence. Several claim that complaints or requests for clarification which they submitted to their immediate command were met with either dead silence or actual endorsement of the extreme methods. Their statements not only fit the scenarios described by the anonymous official in the New Yorker magazine interview, but they are also compatible with the Taguba report. Additionally, General Karpkinski, the commander of all military prisons in Iraq, who has not been charged yet but has been relieved of command, has given accounts of the situation in Abu Ghraib which bolster the soldiers' cases. She recalls that civilians whom she "didn't know", which she called "disappearing ghosts", were always coming and going with prisoners. She claims that she was totally unaware of what they were actually doing within the prison. Major General Taguba's report blames Karpinski for a massive leadership failure, yet it does support her claims of concealed interference and control by a secretive intelligence operation.

The depositions of the accused are further supported by the fact that emails and letters sent home by at least one of the soldiers (written long before the discovery of the abuses) make mention of Military Intelligence directing the military police to abusive acts.

In one such email, a Sergeant Frederick wrote: "I questioned some of the things that I saw ... such things as leaving inmates in their cell with no clothes or in female underpants, handcuffing them to the door of their cell - and the answer I got was, 'This is how military intelligence wants it done.'" He continues, saying that military intelligence officers "encouraged and told us, 'Great job,' they were now getting positive results and information." In one email he told his family that, when he asked the commander of the 320th Military Police Battalion about the mistreatment of prisoners, he was told in reply, "Don't worry about it." Frederick's attorney voiced his aim and reasoning in an interview: "I'm going to drag every involved intelligence officer and civilian contractor that I can find into court. Do you really believe the Army relieved a general officer because of six soldiers? Not a chance."

One of the accused, a reservist Specialist named Sabrina Harman, even brought home a compact disc of the notorious photographs while on leave in November of 2003 (according to her mother, Harman was to use this disc in order to expose the brutal situation in Abu Ghraib). Two months later an Army investigator arrived at her home and confiscated the disc and her laptop. Harman claims that she was ordered to ensure that no prisoners were able to sleep. Her account of Military Intelligence influence over the day-to-day operations in the prison coincides with the conditions of an SAP operation. She said: "The person who brought them [the prisoners] in would set the standards on whether or not to 'be nice' ... "If the prisoner was cooperating then the prisoner was able to keep his jump-suit, mattress and was allowed cigarettes on request or even hot food. But if the prisoner didn 't give what they wanted, it was all taken away until decided. Sleep, food, clothes, mattresses, cigarettes were all privileges and were granted with information received."

Additionally, the blatant refusal of officers to address the egregious mistreatment reported to them is clearly indicative of a planned campaign of torture. Case in point, in the testimony of a soldier at the hearing of the aforementioned Sgt. Frederick it was stated that he first witnessed the sergeant beating prisoners who had been stacked into piles, and later returned to find him overseeing the forced masturbation by one prisoner onto the face of another; and that when he reported this scene to his commanding officers he was told that "the issue was taken care of." No action was taken as a result of his report.

Finally, a former military intelligence staffer at Abu Ghraib recently told ABC News that dozens more soldiers were involved in the abuses besides the seven charged. According to him, "there's definitely a cover-up."

A Nightmare's History: Vietnam

To recognize the truth of the torture program is an easy matter, and to feel outrage over it follows naturally for most. But without seeing the historical role and significance of these events as something far more profound than the excesses of one particular presidency, one gains nothing in the way of understanding their essence, or for that matter the way in which to put an end to them.

To begin with, this torture is nothing new. These methods have long been in the employ of the overt and covert armed forces of capitalism. By the British unto India, the Nazis unto their prisoners and conquests, the Israeli army unto Palestine, and by the United States unto all men, women and nations who dare defiance, barbarism has been used by the capitalist class without mercy and with unrelenting frequency. The horror of mass, systematic torture for the benefit of capitalist profit and plunder is an organic feature of the epoch in which we live. Many of the biggest players in this current scandal have been with us since the last quagmire.

For example, in 1968, Colin Powell was a staff officer in the same Division to which the units involved in the My Lai atrocities belonged. Later, when he received a letter from a young soldier which articulated the concerns of the honest and upright in the Army about the conduct quickly becoming characteristic of the war, Powell refused to investigate his claims. Months later, he would write, "There may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWS... [but] this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the Division ... relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." As Powell continues to ensure that media coverage of the war consists of anything but a "free press", he continues to serve as the unabashed, unapologetic liar on behalf of some of the worst war criminals produced in America in recent times.

But the Vietnam / Abu Ghraib connection goes even further than the damage-control team. In President Bush's May 25th speech to America, he proclaimed that Abu Ghraib prison will be demolished. Clearly this measure would amount to nothing more than a Hollywood-styled distraction from the real issues involved. But an important fact was not mentioned: that Abu Ghraib had already been destroyed by US / British bombing during the war. While the vast majority of Iraqis continued to go without electricity or running water, Abu Ghraib was rebuilt from rubble specifically for use as an American military prison.

The man who directed the rebuilding and reopening of Abu Ghraib is also responsible for the reemployment of 100 experienced Iraqi guards - experience gained while working at Abu Ghraib for years under and for Saddam Hussein. His last post of duty in the Army was as warden of the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, having begun his career as a prison official during his time as a military police officer in Vietnam.

The abhorrent methods and shameful conduct of the Vietnam War era are considered by most Americans to be a thing of the past. But through the presence of and similar roles of key personnel and agencies, through the use of time-tested designs perfected in order to cause unbearable physical torments and psychological misery, and also through an unadulterated element of bestial savagery and perversion, the horrendous, loathsome essence of that ignominious conflict has lived on and reared up once again.

Law and the "New World Order"

To all those who vainly look to "the law" as a neutral arbiter in the epoch of imperialism, the lessons of the continued scourge of our time must be spelled out bluntly: Time and time again, in all instances of crimes against humanity, the law has barred the powerful from excess as well as a piece of paper halts the advance of a tank column; the law has ensured the punishment of the truly guilty only as successfully as a paper cage provides containment. The capitalist class makes, breaks, interprets and reinterprets the law, manipulating and maneuvering around the words of the judicial texts as if they were empty air. Under capitalism, the law serves no other purpose than to safeguard the class interests of the bourgeoisie. Whether the law is utilized to protect the guilty elite or to make an example of the worst to preserve the moderate, the judiciary of any capitalist nation or any capitalist-controlled assembly of nations will never be capable of acting in the interests of the working class, the vast majority of society.

No matter the court or the crime, the needs of the bourgeoisie - and the most powerful amongst them - come first. To appeal to an international body of bourgeois justice is to appeal to the accessories to the crime. And to trust in the law of one's own land is to put faith in the domestic agents of the imperialist goal. Foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy; and the immutable policy of the bourgeoisie is a policy of class warfare, whether it's against American workers here at home, or against Afghan or Iraqi workers abroad.

The conditions faced by the prisoners of American military jails in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq are exported from America's own privatized prison system. Physical and sexual abuses equal in severity to those discovered in the photos from Abu Ghraib have been common in American prisons for decades. In many states, prisoners are stripped naked in front of other inmates as a matter of routine when coming to a new prison or being transferred to a different unit within their prison. The Maricopa County jail in Phoenix, Arizona humiliates the men serving time there by forcing them to wear pink women's underwear. In a scene that is indistinguishable from the pictures from inside of Abu Ghraib, prisoners in Virginia are made to wear black hoods and are beaten as they're ordered to crawl on their stomachs. And in Texas, the state of George W. Bush's governership (and especially during the course of his governership), the most apalling injustices occur, as guards participate in or ignore open sex-slave markets.

Mr. McCotter, the former military prison warden who cut the ribbon in front of Abu Ghraib (that is not a figure of speech, he actually had the effrontery to place and cut a ribbon before a place of rape and anguish), is the director of Business Development for Management & Training Corporation, the third-largest private prison company, with thirteen prisons to its credit. In 1997 he was forced to resign as director of the Utah Department of Corrections after a schizophrenic inmate was stripped naked, shackled to a restraining chair, and left to die. Proceeding with his life's aim, whatever dreadful psychosis it may be, McCotter then assumed his executive station at the private prison company. While one of his company's jails was under investigation by the Justice Department for dangerous conditions and inadequate medical care for prisoners, Mr. McCotter was selected by Attorney General John Ashcroft to travel with a team of police chiefs, judges, and other prison administrators to Iraq on a mission to craft the country's new criminal justice system, and to plot and build its infrastructure.

While in Iraq, McCotter stated in an interview with that out of every prison which his grouped had toured in Iraq, Abu Ghraib was, "the only place we agreed as a team was truly closest to an American prison."

The Cause of the Working Class is the Hope of the World

The mechanisms of war, exploitation and oppression are the machinery of imperialism. With no regard to the borders of nations or the bounds of legality, the class warfare of the bourgeoisie strikes the same blows upon all workers. The nightmare of torture haunts our prisons and theirs; the wails of the children and women left alone in the world by the war dead echo across the dunes of Iraq as well as through the alleys of our inner cities and suburbs. The rights and livelihoods of Iraqi trade union workers are under relentless attack, and American workers have had plenty of that since the end of the post-war boom. Iraqi workers and American workers alike have the same needs: the right to jobs and union representation, the right to healthcare, education, housing, and quality foods and cheap and efficient services and utilities. Capitalism can't deliver these things to Iraqis or Americans.

The workers of Iraq and the workers of the United States have no reason to hate one another, and they have nothing to fear from one another. Alongside the workers of all other nations, they have a war to end and a world to win.

* For the release of all prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay! For the immediate withdrawal of American troops from the Middle-East and the rest of the world!

* Not a cent, not a bullet, not a soldier for imperialist war and occupation!

* Capitalism means war! Only the working class can end the war and punish the guilty!The unions must break from the Democrats and build a party for the workers, a mass party of labor!"

* Workers of the world unite! For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East, the Americans, and the world - never to suffer war again!