Sunday, May 9
Image by image, confession by confession, the horror emerges
Until their publication shocked the world, these pictures were dismissed by the Pentagon as the work of 'six morons who lost the war'.
Now the White House says it is as shocked as anyone about what they reveal, and that a few bad apples have poisoned the reputation of a nation. But yesterday the first evidence emerged of systematic abuse of Iraqis. In this special report, we follow the trail from 9/11, the detention camps of Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay to the shame of Abu Ghraib
By Raymond Whitaker and Rupert Cornwell, The independent.co.uk, 09 May 2004
As the Abu Ghraib scandal engulfed Washington last week, with the media full of pictures of grinning US military police next to naked Iraqi detainees, Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News called a contact in the Pentagon with a query about the six soldiers facing charges for the abuse. "You mean the six morons who lost the war?" the official said. From this side of the Atlantic the official's response might seem a little blinkered. What about all the questions and doubts that already existed - about the exaggerations and lies which took us into war, about the bungled aftermath of a supremely successful military campaign, and about the cost in money and lives of suppressing a growing insurgency against the supposed liberators of the country? He spoke, however, for many Americans, almost certainly including President George Bush and his Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
The obscene antics of Private Lynndie England and her boyfriend (by whom she is now pregnant), Specialist Charles Graner, who appear most often in the photographs, have crystallised half-suppressed doubts in the US about what is going on in Iraq. After a slow start, the unfolding tale of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners has swept everything else off the radar screen in Washington. Gradually the full appalling implications are being grasped by an administration that hitherto has never been concerned for anyone's opinion other than its own. A president already facing a tough re-election fight this autumn now realises he has a potentially career-ending disaster on his hands.
As late as Wednesday, as his handlers pushed him into belated damage control by giving interviews to Arab-language TV networks, Mr Bush still didn't get it. To be sure, he declared his "abhorrence" - but then seemed to lecture his questioners on their failure to understand the special godliness of America, which a few individuals had so heinously betrayed. An apology? No way.