Spring of 2021 will make the 17-year mark since the photos of Abu Ghraib reached the public. Images that shortly after being released in April 2004, motivated Government officials and the Military Police Brigade from the United States to arrange demolition of the prison in Iraq. The explicit images showed American soldiers torturing, raping, and mocking many of the twenty-thousand prisoners of war during the start of the Afghan-American war. Intelligence Units claimed for years that their operations used enhanced interrogation techniques, but it wasn’t until the photos of Abu Ghraib made public that an investigation into the violation of the Geneva Conventions regarding the conduct of war came to be.
Government officials demolished paperwork, flooring, cells, and walls inside the complex that was used to torture 20,000 prisoners and kill 18 men in Abu Ghraib. They organized the prison in order to gain a sliver of useful information for American Units during the long-lasting war. Authorities later even organized for additions to be made with toilets, showers, and medical centers to appear compliant with the Geneva Convention 1929.
The prisoners in Abu Ghraib comprised thousands of randomly picked citizens of Iraq; including women, teenagers, and children found off the highway checkpoint of Iraq and Afghanistan. Once they were brought to the complex, the recently labeled prisoners of war were divided into two categories: common criminals and a few suspected “high-value” leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.
A not-so-shocking fact to the criminally run facility was the experience of those who were given positions of authority at Abu Ghraib. General Karpinski (found in some of the images torturing prisoners) was ordered to be in charge of and run three large jails, eight battalions, and thirty-four hundred Army reservists, most of whom, like her, had no training in handling prisoners. Karpinski’s experience, like many others, did not stretch past intelligence services or army service. Many soldiers and officials dispatched to Abu Ghraib almost rarely were people with the necessary experience and training.
A year before the release of the torture photos, General Karpinski said proudly in an interview concerning Iraqi inmates with the St. Petersburg Times that the “Living conditions now are better in prison than at home. At one point we were concerned that they wouldn’t want to leave.”
It was not until the discovery of her position and crimes committed in 2005, that an investigation into the Army’s prison system began. Dozens of classified reports written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba were leaked to the press and included confessions, records made concerning the “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses”. Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing committed by 372nd and 320th Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence (which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.)
“Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.” (Hersh Ibid)
The torture went beyond, the heinous acts described above. Pictures released revealed the naked prisoners heaped into a pyramid, forced to simulate sexual acts and adopt humiliating poses. The most famous photo even given a title, as if it were art meant for display in a gallery. “The Hooded Man” showed a hooded prisoner standing on a box, holding electrical wires told to stand in such a stress position for hours or he would electrocute himself.
This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, while shocking and heartbreaking, America is notorious as are other countries for abusing their power. Even though the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War specifically targets situations such as Abu Ghraib to prevent the suffering of civilians and weakly suspected terrorists made entry into force in 1950, Army officials of the United States not only violated the Geneva Convention but left it rendered impotent.
Article no. 3 in the Treatment Act clearly states that anyone who causes violence to life and person, murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture, taking hostages, humiliating and degrading treatment towards people taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms, and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely. And if made disobeyed, the convicted perpetrators can bring moral outrage and lead to trade sanctions or other kinds of economic reprisals against the offending government.
Though the torture in the complex began in 2003, it wasn’t until March 25, 2005, where The Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament issued a report finding the U.S. guilty of “grave violations of human rights” against prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The United States made several public announcements during Bush’s presidency onwards, explaining that “Americans do not torture”. Even while journalists have received classified reports and performed investigations to follow the truth of Abu Ghraib Guantánamo Bay in 2019. However, what the neglect towards this situation has taught mass is that the circumstances could very well have been more horrendous than thought. Records coming forward describing most of the 20,000 prisoners of war from Abu Ghraib to be rather well-behaved were charged with a crime, illegally abused or thrown under the rug, to become objects to tease the Iraqi war. The U.S. military later transferred the remaining of the 20,000 prisoners to other prisons and transferred control of the Abu Ghraib prison to Iraqi authorities only after prosecution in 2006 when eleven U.S. soldiers have been convicted of crimes stemming from detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
American soldiers and prisoners from both Abu Ghraib torturings and Guantánamo Bay detention camps have come forward along with officials to the papers and 60 Minutes drawing the stress-positions and the torturing that the U.S. Army committed to the prisoners. While officials made hundreds of pages worth of reports covering the illegal abuse conducted by Americans, that additional information is still being recovered 17 years following paints nothing but guilty stains all over the soldiers inside the 320th M.P. Battalion and Camps 5-6 of Guantánamo.
Entering 2021 could lead to even worse discoveries as the term of the 45th President of the United States ends. A president who had his citizens in prisons tortured, allowed immigration facilities to maltreat people from torn countries leaving hundreds of men, women, and children dead because of malnourishment, neglect, and abuse- one can only imagine that illegal acts carried out by American soldiers and facilities took place no further than its domestic borders let alone in the Middle East towards undocumented prisoners of war.