The Criminalization of Youth / Social Issues

WAR CRIMES
Boys raped in Iraqi prison, under U.S. command
 

Seymour Hersh, the investigative reporter who helped to break the story on the torture & abuse of Iraqi prisoners, told an ACLU convention that the US government has videotapes of boys being “sodomized” at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking.” Hersh said there was “a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher.”

This is a story that has been growing slowly but steadily.

In news reports these tapes were alluded to by members of Congress and other officials who viewed alledged footage of rapes and murders earlier this year during the first round of stories on abuses at Abu Ghraib.

“America was braced last night for new allegations of torture in Iraq after military officials said that photographs apparently showing US soldiers beating an Iraqi prisoner nearly to death and having sex with a female PoW were about to be released.

The officials told the US television network NBC that other images showed soldiers “acting inappropriately with a dead body.” A videotape, apparently made by US personnel, is said to show Iraqi guards raping young boys.


On May 8th Fox news reported “[Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld said there are many more photographs and videos that have not been made public yet.” Rumsfeld went on to say “It’s going to get still more terrible, I’m afraid.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he wants to “prepare the public: Apparently the worst is yet to come potentially in terms of disturbing events.” He later told reporters, “The American public needs to understand we’re talking about rape and murder here. We’re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience.”

The Telegraph, a respected British publication and Marketplace, a US public radio show about business and the economy, reported in May that an employee of the San Diego based Titan Corporation was implicated in the rape of a teenage boy in the Abu Ghraib prison.

German Media Attention
In early June a German TV newsmagazine called Report Mainz broadcast an eight-minute segment reporting that the International Red Cross found at least 107 children in coaliton-administered detention centers in Iraq. The report also quoted from a June 2004 UNICEF report, which confirmed that children were routinely arrested and “interned” in a camp in Um-Qasr.

In addition to the Red Cross and UNICEF complaints, Report Mainz broadcast an original interview with U.S. Army Sgt. Samuel Provance, who was stationed for six months at Abu Ghraib and later blew the whistle about abuses there and the subsequent cover-up. In this interview, Provance confirms the presence of teenagers in Abu Ghraib, describing the torture-by-cold-and-exposure of a teenage boy in order to get his father to talk.

As one commentator put it, “ The US military and possibly Coalition partners have in many cases taken women and children hostage in order to force their male relatives among the guerrillas to surrender. Since this practice is a form of collective punishment and was undertaken while the Coalition occupied Iraq, it is a war crime. “

The General Secretary of Amnesty International in Germany, Barbara Lochbihler, is finally shown demanding a full accounting from the U.S. government, describing the information as “scandalous.”

Australian Accomplice
In Australia, particular attention has been focussed on a member of the Australian military, Major George O’Kane, who spent six months up until February this year in the US military headquarters in Baghdad. He worked in the office of the senior US legal officer in Iraq, and was closely involved in the American legal assessment of the allegations of torture and illegal interrogation techniques.

O’Kane received two Red Cross reports on conditions inside Iraqi prisons, issued in October and November last year. He was responsible for investigating many of these complaints, and visited Abu Ghraib prison on at least five occasions between August 2003 and January 2004.

The Australian legal officer worked closely with the American military authorities in producing legal arguments justifying war crimes. He drafted the official reply to the Red Cross reports, arguing that a number of Geneva Conventions did not apply to prisoners who allegedly posed a serious security risk.

The letter went on to threaten the Red Cross that its unannounced prison inspections might be blocked in the future. This draft was finally signed by US Brigadier General Janice Karpinsky, who has since been reprimanded by the US military, and found to be unfit for duty.

UNICEF seems particularly vexed with the “internment” status, since that means indefinite detention.

Here is an excerpt from a leaked document of the testimony of a prisoner: “I saw […] fucking a kid, his age would be about 15-18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard the screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw […] who was wearing the military uniform putting his dick in the little kid’s ass. I couldn’t see the face of the kid because his face wasn’t in front of the door. And the female soldier was taking pictures. […], I think he is […] because of his accent, and he was not skinny or short, and he acted like a homosexual(gay). And that was in cell #23 as best as I remember.”

US Media Silence
With this story all over the Web, and the international media as well, the US media has been (strangely?) silent. It’s appropriate to ask that, if this is true, what does it mean for the War on Terror? More importantly, what does it mean for America’s soul?

There is something very sick about America, when Senator Rick Santorum warns us that same-sex marriage will destroy the moral fiber of the nation while at the same time US soldiers are making videos of boys being raped in Abu Ghraib by members of an institution that works hard to exclude gays from its ranks.

If Hersh is right, this torture was done for the purposes of spectacle. The youths were being raped as a means of torturing their parents, which is a double humiliation. The boys were violated and their own emotions were turned into a weapon against their parents.

This is yet another reason why we should not go to war unless there is no other choice. Atrocities will happen, it is the nature of war. Such atrocities are acceptable only if the alternative is truly more horrible. In this case, there were other options. This war was a choice and it was a bad one. Such ‘dirty laundry’ needs to be aired. We must understand fully the consequences of a choice for war in the hopes we are more reluctant to choose that later.

In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. — Anne Frank


Every time I try to comment on this story I grow so angry I lose the ability to speak rationally. The United States government has utterly lost any standing to pass moral judgements on others. It has become nothing less than pure, unadulterated evil. — Ed.

From the NAMBLA Bulletin, Vol. 24, No. 3, Pgs. 3 - 4,  Aug. 2004.
Copyright ©  NAMBLA, 2008.


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