George W. Bush’s “State of the Union” Address, January 28, 2003

 Part VIII



One year and three months after US President G.W. Bush in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003 depicted Saddam Hussein as an embodiment of evil – “Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained – by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning” – the Abu Ghraib scandal broke out in April of 2004.

The horrific and inhuman treatment of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of the US military and the CIA interrogators revealed the nature of the American system of peace and freedom. The shocking torture photographs of Iraqi prisoners were chilling: a pyramid of unclothed prisoners, a naked detainee cowering in front of snarling dogs, captives wearing punitive hoods, American soldiers grinning over Iraqi dead bodies, and the thumbs-up sign. Salon obtained a DVD containing the material, which includes a CID (the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Command) investigation report written on June 6, 2004 by Special Agent James E. Seigmund. The report includes the following summary of the material:

“A review of all the computer media submitted to this office revealed a total of 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a Swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of Military Working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of questionable acts.”

According to the CID investigation report, all the photographs and videos were taken between October 18, 2003 and December 30, 2003. Some of the CID documents refer to CIA personnel as interrogators of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

The behavior of the American torturers is appalling and shocking. Rather than being ashamed of their inhuman conduct, the torturers took photos and videos of their despicable treatment of the Iraqi prisoners as souvenirs. They commemorated their sadistic cruelty with a visual record. The Americans were not at all troubled by their sadism as expressed by a photo where an Army sergeant was completing his official paperwork next to a hooded and naked Iraqi prisoner. The torture carried out by the Americans in Iraq was routine. As Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of HRW, says, “The brazenness with which these (American) soldiers conducted themselves, snapping photographs and flashing the ‘thumbs-up’ sign as they abused prisoners, suggests they felt they had nothing to hide from their superiors.” The prisoners’ abuse in Iraq under the US custody is a violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which prohibit “outrages upon the personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” against any detainee. Mistreatment that amounts to “torture or inhuman treatment” is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions or a war crime. 

The Abu Ghraib photos also reveal that the heinous abuse of Iraqi prisoners under the US custody led to Iraqi deaths. The CID investigation report included 546 images of dead Iraqi detainees. An Abu Ghraib photo shows a dead body packed in ice. The dead person was Mandel al Jamadi, who was a “ghost detainee”. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, the US held a number of Iraqis secretly without any record. The ghost detainee operation was run in the Intelligence Wing of the prison. According to this operation, “The CIA would covertly deliver prisoners, interrogate them and remove them. The Army would house the detainees in the intelligence wing – with no official record of their existence – and military police would take them to and from CIA interrogations.” Jamadi was first captured in Iraq and abused by the American military Special Forces. He was then handed over to the CIA for interrogation at Abu Ghraib. Jamadi died there on November 4, 2003. The military investigators declared his death a homicide. But according to the Army autopsy, Jamadi died as a result of “blunt force injuries complicated by compromised respiration.”

The torture by the Americans has also included families of Iraqi prisoners. The torturers indulged in torturing children of the prisoners in order to make the prisoners “talk”. Army Spc. Samuel Provance, a whistle blower of the US military abuse, alleged that the US interrogators “broke” Hamid Zabar, an Iraqi General, by abusing his 16-year old son. When they failed to make Zabar “talk” even after 14 hours of interrogation, the frustrated interrogators stripped his son naked, doused him with mud and water. Then, the American interrogators drove him around in a truck in a January night, and made his father watch his son suffering. Provance told: “During the interrogation, they could not get him to talk. They said, ‘OK, we are going to let you see your son.’ They allowed him to see his son in this shivering, freezing, naked state…That just totally broke his heart and that is when he said, ‘I’ll tell you what you want to know.’”

The American sadistic cruelty in Iraq known to the world is only a tip of the iceberg. Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the first military investigation into human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, said that the material not yet publicly disclosed or mentioned in subsequent trials included a video showing “a male American soldier in uniform sodomising a female detainee”. The first wave of images that Taguba received also included images of sexual humiliation between a father and his son.

The systemic torture of Iraqi prisoners by the Americans was confirmed by the testimony of Army Captain Ian Fishback and two sergeants from the 82nd Airborne Division. In September 2005 they wrote to ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and told the Human Rights Watch that they witnessed torture of prisoners near Fallujah, Iraq, in 2003 and early 2004. Some of the same tactics depicted in the Abu Ghraib photos were used. The death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush in 2003 in US custody in northern Iraq, adds to the list of the US torture victims. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr., an Army Interrogator, bound him, stuffed him in a sleeping bag, and then sat on Mowhoush’s chest in an effort to get information about the Iraqi insurgency. As a result, the Iraqi general suffocated and died. Another confirmation of torture of Iraqis by the American crusaders comes from Tony Lagouranis, a specialist in a military intelligence battalion. He interrogated prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Al Asad Airfield and other places in Iraq from January through December of 2004. He said that coercive techniques, including the use of dogs, waterboarding and prolonged stress positions, were employed on the detainees. The prisoners held at Al Asad Airfield, about 110 miles northwest of Baghdad, were shackled and hung from an upright bed frame welded to the wall in a room in an airplane hanger. Lagouranis confessed, “I started realizing that most of the prisoners were innocent…We were torturing people for no reason.”

The torture of Iraqi prisoners under the US custody is in compliance with torture policies authorized by the American officials. Mary McCarthy, a CIA Deputy Inspector General, realized that the CIA had not only conducted abusive interrogations but also policies that authorized treatment that was cruel, inhumane or degrading. According to the HRW, Iraqi prisoners’ abuse in US custody in Iraq is systemic, routine and authorized. HRW further notes that the detainees routinely faced severe beatings, sleep deprivation and other abuses during 2003-2005.

Some of the torture techniques implemented by the Americans in Iraq are in violation of Geneva Conventions. On September 25, 2008 before the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Capitol Hill, Air Force Instructor and Iraq veteran Colonel Steven Kleinman testified that “he witnessed a deliberate program of what he called “punishment” against Iraqi prisoners.” According to him, “forced nudity, sleep deprivation and painful shackling were all used against those who wouldn’t cooperate with US interrogators.” These techniques are “the same as those taught in a Pentagon program to prepare US service members for what they would experience under foreign captors who don’t respect the Geneva Conventions.” The Pentagon’s program is called Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE). The physical and psychological pressures used in SERE resistance training include: sensory deprivation, sleep disruption, stress positions, waterboarding and slapping. The Joint Personal Recovery Agency (JPRA) manual talks about “coercive pressures” like keeping the lights on always, and treating a person (enemy) like an animal.

However, Kleinman failed to report that the torture programs implemented by the CIA and the US Military Intelligence in Iraq and elsewhere are the decades-long programs developed by these two agencies. McCoy says that the Abu Ghraib photos of prisoners in hooding, stress positions, extreme intimidation with ferocious dogs and sexual humiliation reveal the psychological and physical torture that the CIA has been employing for years. Realizing that the psychological torture produces better results than the physical torture, the CIA in 1950s and 1960s was involved in a program called Mkultra. As a result, “(f)rom 1950 to 1962, the CIA became involved in torture through a massive mind-control effort, with psychological warfare and secret research into human consciousness that reached a cost of a billion dollars annually—a veritable Manhattan Project of the mind.” The PSYWAR methods developed in Mkultra have been “refined” as described in the CIA’s torture manual KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation and the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983 (HRE). The methods described in these two documents include: forced drugging, hooding, sexual humiliation, extended sensory deprivation, prolonged interrogation, environmental and dietary manipulation, beatings, stress positions and other methods of “self-inflicted pain.” Kleinman informed that he witnessed an Iraqi prisoner forced to kneel beneath a spotlight and repeatedly hit across the face with every answer he gave, and the interrogators were baffled when he tried to stop the beating.

The documents released in June of 2008 by the Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC) confirm that the top officials in Washington have approved the methods used in SERE resistance training to be used on prisoners under US custody. The SASC released a new set of documents that throw additional light on the origins of US torture policies. Mark Mazzetti reports: “The documents provide new details about the still-murky early months of the C.I.A.’s detention program, when the agency began using a set of harsh interrogation techniques weeks before the Justice Department issued a written legal opinion in August 2002 authorizing their use. Congressional investigators have long tried to determine exactly who authorized these techniques before legal opinion was completed.”

It is now evident that the top officials of the Bush administration not only discussed in the White House about torturing “enemy combatants”, but also gave a formal legal authority to use torture methods on them.

The US’ Justice

When the Abu Ghraib torture and killing came to light the Bush administration blamed low-ranking soldiers. The administration ignored high ranking officials and those in Washington, who not only authorized torture but also gave orders. This has generated severe criticism from human rights groups. Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of the HRW, said, “It is clear that the United States has not taken the issue of prisoner abuse seriously enough.”

The American soldiers, who were convicted by US military courts, were given lenient sentences. The military jury at Fort Carson in Colorado that heard murder charges against Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer (who tortured and killed Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush in 2003) delivered a shocking verdict — a sentence amounting to a slap on the wrist. Lynndie England, a 23-year old reservist who was photographed giving a thumbs-up sign in front of naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib, was sentenced for three years. Sgt. Michael J. Smith, 24-year old Army dog handler, was sentenced for six months. Prosecutors said that Smith let his unmuzzled black Belgian shepherd bark and lunge at cowering Iraqis for his own amusement. The defense argued that Smith was following orders to soften up prisoners for interrogation. Smith was unrepentant when he addressed the jury shortly after he was convicted. He said, “Soldiers are not supposed to be soft and cuddly.” Smith also regretted for not getting his orders from higher officials in writing.

Therefore, the divinely commissioned mission of bringing peace and freedom to Iraq by God’s chosen country has degenerated into a repugnant monstrosity. The self-proclaimed liberators have been involved in oppressing and terrorizing Iraqis. They have taken savage pleasure in inflicting pain, and killing innocent and defenseless Iraqi men, women and children. The American crusaders have not only commemorated their sadistic cruelty with a visual record, but also eulogized it. The US sponsored terrorism, mythified as “holy, legal and legitimate” to bring peace and freedom, has led to the slaughter of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. John Pilger wrote: “The scale of death caused by the British and U.S. governments may well have surpassed that of the Rwanda genocide, making it the biggest single act of mass murder of the late 20th century and the 21st century.” The death and destruction caused by the US in Iraq is nothing but celebration of American bloodthirsty god in a holocaust of innocent human flesh and blood.

Thus, the myth of the US being the protector and promoter of peace and freedom has been exposed. It recently showed up in the newly launched Global Peace Index’s (GPI) ranking of 121 countries in 2007 and 140 countries in 2008. Not surprisingly, the US was ranked 96 in 2007 and 98 in 2008.


American imperial power has mythified imperial violence as “holy, legal and legitimate” to promote and protect peace and freedom by exterminating evil. This violence is sacred violence. Because it is claimed to be divinely mandated to fulfill the sacred mission of defeating evil, and bringing peace and freedom. The persuasive power of this myth promoted by the imperial power may be seen in overwhelming public unanimity to the “holy, legal and legitimate” slaughter of innocent people and destruction of other countries’ political, civil and economic structures. International wars cease to recur, because independent nations cease to exist. For they are provinces of an all embracing empire. They no longer pose any challenge or threat to the hegemony of the imperial power. The American imperial power celebrated these conditions as peace and freedom.

 In the process of establishing the imperial system of peace and freedom, the imperial power destroys the voice and language of its victim(s). It perpetuates its story about the victim and its genocidal violence against the victim. Therefore, the myth of the imperial system of peace and freedom needs to be disclosed, redeeming the language and reconstructing the “shattered voice” of the victim.





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