11 May 2004

systemic abuse or just part of the process?

Today Reuters reports:

The Red Cross saw U.S. troops keeping Iraqi prisoners naked for days in darkness at the Abu Ghraib jail last October and was told by an intelligence officer in charge it was "part of the process," a report leaked on Monday said.

The 24-page report added to the pressure on U.S. officials by revealing that commanders were alerted to apparent abuses at Abu Ghraib months before they opened a criminal investigation.

The Red Cross, which has special access to war zone prisons under international treaties, said mistreatment of prisoners "went beyond exceptional cases and might be considered as a practice tolerated by the CF (Coalition Forces)."

Abuse was "in some cases tantamount to torture."

Although most of the Red Cross's observations concerned U.S. forces, it also piled pressure on Washington's closest ally, describing British troops forcing Iraqi detainees to kneel and stomping on their necks in an incident in which one died.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva confirmed that the confidential February 4 report, initially leaked on the Web site of The Wall Street Journal, was genuine.

Calling this anything but systemic is a really tortured argument. If the Pentagon had been on notice for months why are they only now acting?

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