9/30/2005

Consortiumnews.- 'Frog-Marching' Bush to the Hague

By Robert Parry
September 29, 2005

Federal authorities “frog-marched” Private Lynndie England in handcuffs and shackles off to prison to serve three years for her role in abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

The 22-year-old single mother from West Virginia joins a group of nine reservists punished for mistreating Iraqis, some of whom were stripped naked and forced to pose in mock sexual positions. England appeared in photos, pointing at a prisoner’s penis and holding a naked Iraqi by a leash.

While England’s punishment fits with George W. Bush’s pledge to prosecute military personnel for wrongdoing in Iraq, a larger question is whether low-ranking soldiers are becoming scapegoats for the bloody fiasco that Bush created when he ordered the invasion in defiance of international law. Pumped-up by Bush’s false claims linking Iraq to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, U.S. soldiers charged into that Arab country with revenge on their minds.

In a healthy democracy, the debate might be less about imprisoning England and other “grunts” than whether Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other war architects should be “frog-marched” to the Hague for prosecution as war criminals.

The international community also has largely shied away from the issue of Bush’s criminality, apparently because of the unprecedented military might of the United States.

If the leaders of a less powerful nation had invaded a country under false pretenses – touching off a war that left tens of thousands of civilians dead – there surely would be demands for war crimes prosecutions before the International Criminal Court at the Hague. But not for Bush and his War Cabinet.

Similar Complaints

Ironically, Lynndie England’s sentencing at Fort Hood, Texas, on Sept. 27 came as new evidence surfaced that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was not just the work of some deviant prison guards on the night shift at Abu Ghraib. Army Capt. Ian Fishback and two sergeants alleged that prisoners were subjected to similar treatment by the 82nd Airborne at a camp near Fallujah and that senior officers knew. [See Human Rights Watch report.]

Fishback blamed the pattern of abuse on the Bush administration’s vague orders about when and how Geneva Convention protections applied to detainees, a problem that has extended from the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a network of shadowy U.S. prisons around the world.

“We did not set the conditions for our soldiers to succeed,” said Fishback, 26, who has served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We failed to set clear standards, communicate those standards and enforce those standards.” [NYT, Sept. 28, 2005]

And in another case of apparent deterioration of discipline among U.S. troops in Iraq, a separate Army investigation examined whether some U.S. troops traded gruesome photos of dead bodies – with captions like “Cooked Iraqi” – for access to a pornographic Web site specializing in sexual images of wives and girlfriends. [NYT, Sept. 28, 2005]
For his part, Bush has condemned the misconduct of Lynndie England and her cohorts. After publication of the Abu Ghraib photos in 2004, Bush said he “shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated.” Bush added that “their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people.”

Wanton Death

But the cavalier treatment toward Iraqi lives can be traced back to the very start of the war. Determined to invade Iraq, Bush brushed aside international objections, prevented the completion of a United Nations search for alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and unleashed his “shock and awe” bombing campaign on March 19, 2003.

Bush and his high command authorized the bombing of one Baghdad restaurant – where civilians were having dinner – because of shaky intelligence that Saddam Hussein might be eating there, too. The logic apparently was that the goal of killing Hussein justified the slaughter of the innocent restaurant clientele.

As it turned out, Hussein was not there, but the attack killed 14 civilians, including seven children. One mother collapsed when rescue workers pulled the severed head of her daughter out of the rubble.

In another U.S. bombing raid, Saad Abbas, 34, was wounded, but his family sought to shield him from the greater horror. The bombing had killed his three daughters – Marwa, 11; Tabarek, 8; and Safia, 5 – who had been the center of his life.

“It wasn’t just ordinary love,” his wife said. “He was crazy about them. It wasn’t like other fathers.” [NYT, April 14, 2003]

The horror of the war was captured, too, in the fate of 12-year-old Ali Ismaeel Abbas, who lost his two arms when a U.S. missile struck his Baghdad home. Ali’s father, Ali’s pregnant mother and his siblings were all killed.

As he was evacuated to a Kuwaiti hospital, becoming a symbol of U.S. compassion for injured Iraqi civilians, Ali said he would rather die than live without his hands.

The slaughter extended to the battlefield where the outmatched Iraqi army sometimes fought heroically though hopelessly against the technologically superior U.S. forces. Christian Science Monitor reporter Ann Scott Tyson interviewed U.S. troops with the 3rd Infantry Division who were deeply troubled by their task of mowing down Iraqi soldiers who kept fighting even in suicidal situations.

“For lack of a better word, I felt almost guilty about the massacre,” one soldier said privately. “We wasted a lot of people. It makes you wonder how many were innocent. It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?”

Commenting upon the annihilation of Iraqi forces in these one-sided battles, Lt. Col. Woody Radcliffe said, “We didn’t want to do this. Even a brain-dead moron can understand we are so vastly superior militarily that there is no hope. You would think they would see that and give up.”

In one battle around Najaf, U.S. commanders ordered air strikes to kill the Iraqis en masse rather than have U.S. soldiers continue to kill them one by one.

“There were waves and waves of people coming at (the U.S. troops) with AK-47s, out of this factory, and (the U.S. troops) were killing everyone,” Radcliffe said. “The commander called and said, ‘This is not right. This is insane. Let’s hit the factory with close air support and take them out all at once.’” [Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 2003]

Jittery Troops

Three weeks into the invasion, Hussein’s government collapsed, but Bush’s occupation plan left U.S. forces stretched thin as they tried to establish order.

Sometimes, jittery U.S. soldiers opened fire on demonstrations, inflicting civilian casualties and embittering the population. In Fallujah, some 17 Iraqis were gunned down in demonstrations after U.S. soldiers claimed they had been fired upon. Fallujah soon became a center of anti-American resistance.

As the Iraqi insurgency began to spread – and Americans began dying in larger numbers – military intelligence officers encouraged prison guards to soften up captured Iraqis by putting them in stress positions for long periods of time, denying sleep and subjecting them to extremes of hot and cold.

Some of the poorly trained prison personnel – like those on Lynndie England’s night shift at Abu Ghraib – added some of their own bizarre ideas for humiliating captured Iraqis. But even some of those strange techniques, such as adorning Iraqi men with women’s underwear, could be traced to practices used elsewhere.

The mistreatment of detainees further fueled the insurgency and spread anti-Americanism across the Middle East and around the globe.

Back in Washington, the Bush administration claimed that the prisoner abuses were the work of a few “bad apples” who would be singled out for punishment. Looked at differently, however, Bush opened U.S. soldiers to a kind of double jeopardy when he ordered the invasion.

Not only did the soldiers risk their lives in combat, but they faced added legal risks in trying to execute a war in defiance of the UN Charter, which prohibits one country from attacking another without the approval of the UN Security Council.

The evidence is now clear, too, that Bush rushed the nation to war without UN sanction, in part, because his rationalizations about WMD and Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda were falling apart, even as he was determined to make the war happen.

Consortiumnews.com

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