Were the abuses at Abu Ghraib, revealed three years ago, isolated aberrations? The government says so. American Prospect senior editor McKelvey persuasively argues to the contrary.
Only a dozen military investigations have been held on detainee abuse, and only nine soldiers have been sentenced for crimes against prisoners; up the chain of command, no senior officer has yet been punished, even though officers are supposed to know what’s going on in their commands—and can hardly do otherwise and serve effectively. Says one sniper, ordered to get his sideburns trimmed, “If they’re so worried about little shit like that, they’re going to notice if an Iraqi is getting shit smeared on him or electrocuted or walked down the hall with a leash around his neck.” A programmatic cover-up has since shielded the brass—and, even more to the point, the OGA (other government agency) that really ran the infamous jail, namely the CIA, since, as a former guard remarks, “The army as it is traditionally understood did not exist in that prison.” The CIA interrogators found willing accomplices in young men and women such as former prison guard Charles Graner and his girlfriend Lynndie England, already well trained in striking obedient poses for the camera. Combine this drug-addled low-hanging fruit (who proclaimed, “We are above even President Bush. No one has power over us”) and non-Arabic speaking CIA interrogators with a staff of translators who were bringing Iraq’s civil war inside the walls to settle old tribal scores, and it is small wonder that horrifying abuses took place. What remains to be discovered, as McKelvey urges, is how far up the line those abuses originated; though Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the highest-ranking officer in Iraq at the time, approved of the interrogators’ methods, he has yet to answer for them. The same goes for Donald Rumsfeld.
An eye-opening, depressing look at events that, more than any other single episode, turned the war in Iraq against the U.S.