Horrifying images of systematic US military abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison were aired last week on Australian television and also published at Salon.com.
The images of prisoners, naked, strapped to apparatuses on the floor, hanging upside down, wounded, threatened by snarling dogs, masturbating for their abusers, draped in women’s underwear, forced to sodomize themselves, arranged in the most degrading and painful positions, as well as photographs of dead bodies and blood-smeared cells, have been in the possession of the US military for several years and have been systematically suppressed.
The Pentagon has resisted efforts to have the photographs and videos made available to the public.
And for good reason.
The Abu Ghraib images demonstrate, in the first place, the depraved and sadistic character of US treatment of detainees.
More than that, they help give the lie to the propaganda of the Bush administration and the media about the motives for the Iraq war and occupation and its essential character.
How could such barbarism be associated with the effort to spread ‘democracy’ in the Middle East, to ‘liberate’ the Iraqi people?
The conduct by the US military prison guards is a telltale sign of a brutal, colonial occupation.
The occupying power resorts to terror and criminality to suppress a population that opposes and despises its presence.
After a flurry of nervous commentary February 16, the day following the Australian broadcast, the Abu Ghraib horrors have for all intents and purposes been dropped by the American media.
A few pious editorials appeared over the weekend (for example, in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun), none of which carried much weight or conviction.
The Times editors commented that the pictures “are a reminder that the Bush administration has yet to account for what happened at Abu Ghraib.
No political appointee has been punished for the policies that led to the atrocities. Indeed, most have been rewarded.”
The newspaper concludes on a pathetic note, urging Republican Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and one of those leading the effort over the past two years to hide the images from the American public, to “keep his promise to dig out the truth about Abu Ghraib.”
Of course publications like the Times, the Inquirer and the Sun are hopelessly compromised in raising the Abu Ghraib issue by the fact that they defend the occupation and subjugation of Iraq.
Their position is self-contradictory and untenable: they support the crime, but object to certain of the criminal methods.
This explains the unconvincing and half-hearted nature of their criticism.
They will editorialize limply once, perhaps twice, then go silent again.
The US military responded to the appearance of the new images as any powerful and thoroughly guilty party would: it denied, stonewalled, dismissed the images or blamed the abuses on subordinates.