Poor training? Few bad apples? Or torture by design?
Karen Diers, Northern California Coalition for Women Prisoners
From the very beginning, the prisons in Iraq were set up to be like American prisons. The Guardian, in an interview with an online magazine corrections.com last January, quoted Lane McCotter who described Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison at the center of the torture scandal, as “the only place we agreed as a team was truly closest to an American prison” (5/11/04). O.L.”Lane” McCotter is one of four former prison officials sent to Iraq by the head of the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, to set up Iraq’s new prison system and train guards.
As former head of Utah’s Department of Corrections (DOC), McCotter is someone who is very familiar with U.S. prisons and prisoner abuse. He left his position in Utah in 1997, after a video of the torture of an inmate there was released. Michael Valent, who suffered from mental illness, died from blood clots resulting in a pulmonary embolism after he was stripped naked, run through the halls, and then strapped to a restraining chair for 16 hours. McCotter was also involved in scandals in New Mexico prisons. Now he is a private consultant.
Gary Deland, another one of the team, was head of Utah DOC in the 1980’s. He was sued for denying appropriate medical care to prisoners. John Armstrong, another member of the team, served as head of the Connecticut prison system from 1995 to 2003. The tactics used by prison guards during his tenure were blamed in three inmate deaths. And lastly, Terry Stewart, former head of the Arizona DOC, was sued by the Justice Department in 1997 for the rapes, sexual assaults and misconduct that occurred when he was in charge. (Source: AP as referenced by ABC News and Western Prison Project.)
At least two of the six of the “poorly trained reservists” who have been charged in carrying out the torture were employed as prison guards in the U.S. when they were not fulfilling their obligation to the Army. Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick worked at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn Virginia for six years. Charles Graner is from SCI-Greene Prison in Pennsylvania, where political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is held on death row and where there have been reports of abuse by prison guards. Some news reports have said three of the people implicated in the Major General Antonio Taguba’s report are prison guards. One of the seven implicated was a “private contractor” and not under the Army?s jurisdiction.
The presence of a private contractor in a military prison brings up a very important issue and goes beyond these low-level soldiers who are being described as “a few bad apples.” All of the reservists have said that they were told to break down the prisoners by “military intelligence officers,” which means CIA.
One of the CIA’s favorite contractors has been DynCorp, which was started by former military personnel after World War II and has continued with a Board of Directors which includes men with very powerful military and financial connections. According to Catherine Austin Fitts, “Last year, the State Department awarded a sole source contract for up to $500 million to CSC DynCorp to manage the police, judiciary and prisons in Iraq.” DynCorp, headquartered in Reston, Virginia is one of the top military contractors for the US government, carrying out operations in Afghanistan, Columbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Haiti, the US/Mexico border region, and East Timor. DynCorp’s other exploits have included running a sex trafficking ring, which involved children while they were training police in Bosnia. As part of the Plan Columbia contract and the so-called “War on Drugs”, DynCorp aircraft and pilots are spraying herbicides on peasants. There is a class-action lawsuit brought against them by Ecuadoreans, which alleges the fumigation has killed crops, livestock, and, in some cases, children. DynCorp has been contracted by a host of other US government agencies for Information Technology. These agencies have trillions of dollars unaccounted for.
Two other private contractors, who are being sued in a class-action lawsuit for the participation of their employees in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, are CACI and Titan. CACI, also based in Virginia, supplied interrogators and “human intelligence support.” CACI employee Steven Stephanowicz of Philadelphia is accused of lying about his knowledge of abusive interrogations, and of prompting prison guards to be abusive towards prisoners in order to “soften them up” for interrogation. John B. Israel, named in the Taguba report as a CACI employee, is accused of sharing overall responsibility for the abuse and for lying about not seeing the abuse when witnesses say he did. However, The Signal verified that Israel was an employee of SOS Interpreting Ltd., a New York subcontractor that provided translators to Titan. As reported by The Signal, Interior Department spokesman Frank Quimby said, “At no point did the Army indicate there was a problem.”
What this reveals is that the torture was meant to happen. It goes hand in hand with the torture and abuse of people in prisons in the U.S.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq and of the rest of the world.
Poor training? Few bad apples? Or torture by design?