Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story

Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations (The Schlesinger Report)

by James R. Schlesinger, Harold Brown, Tillie K. Fowler, and General Charles A. Horner (USAF-Ret.)
August 2004, 102 pp. plus appendices

AR 15-6 Investigation of the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility and 205th Military Intelligence Brigade

by Major General George R. Fay
August 2004, 142 pp.

“Free societies in the Middle East will be hopeful societies, which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export…. The terrorists are fighting freedom with all their cunning and cruelty because freedom is their greatest fear—and they should be afraid, because freedom is on the march.”

—President George W. Bush,
Republican National Convention, New York, September 2, 2004

“It was discovered that freedom in this land is not ours. It is the freedom of the occupying soldiers in doing what they like…abusing women, children, men, and the old men and women whom they arrested randomly and without any guilt. No one can ask them what they are doing, because they are protected by their freedom…. No one can punish them, whether in our country or their country. They expressed the freedom of rape, the freedom of nudity and the freedom of humiliation.”

—Sheik Mohammed Bashir,
Friday prayers, Um al-Oura, Baghdad, June 11, 20041

They have long since taken their place in the gallery of branded images, as readily recognizable in much of the world as Marilyn struggling with her billowing dress or Michael dunking his basketball: Hooded Man, a dark-caped figure tottering on a box, supplicant arms outstretched, wires trailing from his fingers; and Leashed Man, face convulsed in humiliation above his leather collar, naked body twisted at the feet of the American female in camouflage pants who gazes down at him without expression, holding the leash casually in hand. The ubiquity of these images in much of the world suggests not only their potency but their usefulness and their adaptability. For the first of the many realities illuminated by the Global War on Terror—or the GWOT, as the authors of the latest reports listed here designate it—is the indisputable fact that much of the world sees America rather differently from the way Americans see themselves.

Out of the interlocking scandals and controversies symbolized by Hooded Man and Leashed Man, the pyramids of naked bodies, the snarling dogs, and all the rest, and known to the world by the collective name of Abu Ghraib, one can extract two “master narratives,” both dependent on the power and mutability of the images themselves. The first is that of President Bush, who presented the photographs as depicting “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops, who dishonored our country and disregarded our values”—behavior that, the President insisted, “does not represent America.” And the aberrant, outlandish character of what the photographs show—the nudity, the sadism, the pornographic imagery—seemed to support this “few bad apples” argument, long the classic defense of states accused of torture.

The facts, however, almost from day one, did not: the Red Cross report, the Army’s own Taguba report, even the photographs themselves, some of which depicted military intelligence soldiers assisting in abuses they supposedly knew nothing about—all strongly suggested that the images were the brutal public face of behavior that involved many more people than the seven military police who…


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