Nearly two years after the first pictures of naked and humiliated Iraqi detainees emerged from Abu Ghraib prison, the full extent of the abuse became known for the first time yesterday with a leaked report from the US army's internal investigation into the scandal.
The catalogue of abuse, which was obtained by the online American magazine Salon, could not have arrived at a worse time for the Bush administration, coinciding with yesterday's United Nations report on abuse of detainees at Guantánamo, the release of a video showing British troops beating up Iraqi youths, and lingering anger in the Muslim world over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
Bush administration officials had already been fending off a new wave of anger about the torture of detainees - following the airing of graphic images from Abu Ghraib on Australian television - when Salon posted a story on its website yesterday saying it had obtained what appears to be the fullest photographic record to date of the abuse.
It said the material, gathered by the army's criminal investigation division, included 1,325 photographs and 93 video clips of suspected abuse of detainees, 546 photographs of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, as well as 660 images of adult pornography, and 29 pictures of US troops engaged in simulated sex acts. Based on date stamps, all were recorded between October 18 and December 30 2003, the same timeframe as the original scandal.
The website published 18 pictures from the prison. Aside from the ritualised images of humiliation - naked Iraqi men kneeling or lying on the ground alone or in a heap or wearing women's underwear on their heads - they also reveal the apparent normality of those bizarre scenes within Abu Ghraib. One of the pictures shows an army sergeant standing calmly to fill out paperwork on a wall. Behind him is a hooded, naked detainee. Another photograph shows Staff Sergeant Ivan Chip Frederick - who was tried for his role in the abuse scandal - trimming his fingernails beside an Iraqi who is standing on a box wearing a hood and electrical wires.
There are also images of physical violence: a blood-streaked cell, and a picture of the battered face of a corpse packed in ice. "The DVD also includes photographs of guards threatening Iraqi prisoners with dogs, homemade videotapes depicting hooded prisoners being forced to masturbate, and a video showing a mentally disturbed prisoner smashing his head against a door. Oddly, the material also includes numerous photographs of slaughtered animals and mundane images of soldiers travelling around Iraq," Salon said.
The magazine said it thought the material included all of the pictures that originally surfaced when the abuse became known in April 2004, as well as the pictures aired on Australian television. Human rights organisations have been fighting for months for the army to release a full record of the abuse at Abu Ghraib. Salon said it received the material from a member of the military who had spent time at the jail and was familiar with the investigation.
The first official response from Washington as well as Baghdad was concerned as much with the impact these new pictures of abuse could have in the Middle East at a time when anger against the west is high. A Pentagon spokesman said the release of additional images of abuse "could only further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world".
Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, while condemning the abuse at Abu Ghraib, noted that US soldiers had already been punished for it.
Mr Jaafari's government was also on the defensive about torture yesterday after the first direct evidence emerged that death squads had operated from within the interior ministry.
The US general in charge of training the Iraqi police, Major General Joseph Peterson, told the Chicago Tribune that the death squads that had been arresting and killing Sunnis had been operating from within the police force although they wore commando uniforms. "We have found one of the death squads," Gen Peterson told the paper. "They are a part of the police force of Iraq."
In another development, ABC television on Wednesday night aired audio tapes of Saddam Hussein's cabinet meetings during the mid-1990s, including a segment in which he says he warned Washington of a terror attack. "Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans," Saddam is heard saying, adding that he "told the British as well". However, he adds: "This story is coming, but not from Iraq."
Back To Islam Awareness Homepage
Latest News about Islam and Muslims