Wednesday, May 19, 2004

American culture is visual -- we respond far more readily to images than to words. As a result, an awful lot of Americans still think the prison torture scandal is just about a few bad apples who forced prisoners to play Nude Monkey Pile. And after the Nick Berg beheading, it's taboo to publish more prison images.

So it almost doesn't matter that the words continue to be appalling, like these from the Denver Post:

Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show.

The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure.

Another Iraqi military officer, records show, was asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands tied to the top of his cell door. Another detainee died "while undergoing stress technique interrogation," involving smothering and "chest compressions," according to the documents.

Details of the death investigations, involving at least four different detention facilities including the Abu Ghraib prison, provide the clearest view yet into war-zone interrogation rooms, where intelligence soldiers and other personnel have sometimes used lethal tactics to try to coax secrets from prisoners, including choking off detainees' airways. Other abusive strategies involve sitting on prisoners or bending them into uncomfortable positions, records show.

"Torture is the only thing you can call this," said a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal investigations into prisoner abuses. "There is a lot about our country's interrogation techniques that is very troubling. These are violations of military law."...

This is an important story. It's being discuused in blogs, but I'm afraid it's doomed to obscurity, for two reasons: no pictures accompany it and it wasn't published in New York or Washington. So read it and talk about it.

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