First, a United Nations report declared that the activities carried out in our name at Guantanamo Bay amount to torture and asked that the prison be shut down immediately. The report also declared that those who ordered or condoned abusive practices "up to the highest level of military and political command" should be brought to justice.
The UN also kindly reminded us that American personnel should undergo training so that they can come up to the international standards for treating detainees.
The New York Times posted the full report as a pdf here. The Times also said:
The report says that the use of excessive force during transportation, force-feeding through nasal tubes during hunger strikes and shackling, chaining and hooding of prisoners, placing them in solitary confinement, subjecting them naked to severe temperatures and threatening them with dogs amounted to torture.
If you haven’t registered for the New York Times site, you can read about the report on Yahoo.
It also expresses "utmost concern" at "attempts by the United States administration to redefine 'torture' in the framework of the struggle against terrorism in order to allow certain interrogation techniques that would not be permitted under the internationally accepted definition of torture."
At the same time, the online magazine Salon received more than 1,000 photographs, videos and supporting documents from the Army's probe of the abuse at Abu Graib prison. For those of you who don’t pay for Salon premium, you can read a good article on the material at Editor and Publisher.
The DVD containing the material includes a June 6, 2004, CID investigation report written by Special Agent James E. Seigmund. That report includes the following summary of the material included: "A review of all the computer media submitted to this office revealed a total of 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a Swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of Military Working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of questionable acts.
Salon reported that the images it published today represents a “small fraction of these visual materials.”
They include: a naked, handcuffed prisoner in a contorted position; a dead prisoner who had been severely beaten; a prisoner apparently sodomizing himself with an object; and a naked, hooded prisoner standing next to an American officer who is blandly writing a report against a wall. Other photographs depict a bloody cell. The DVD also includes photographs of guards threatening Iraqi prisoners with dogs, homemade videotapes depicting hooded prisoners being forced to masturbate, and a video showing a mentally disturbed prisoner smashing his head against a door.
Finally, a London TV station reported that a security expert from Bradford University called the war in Iraq a “gift” to al-Qaeda.
Professor Paul Rogers told delegates at the Royal United Services Institute that "Iraq is very slowly becoming something of a Jihadist training zone for a new generation of Jihadists, rather like Afghanistan was in the 1980s against the Soviets.
You get young Jihadists from Afghanistan travelling to Iraq, getting combats training against the American troops in urban environments and then taking their skills elsewhere.
The real gift to terrorists is the fact that the Iraq war, for the first time, gives them hands-on training in fighting an urban war. In other words, the war we started in Iraq may well be training our enemies how to fight us in our own cities. Rogers said:
"That is going to come back and haunt us over the next 20 to 30 years."
The Bushies, of course, are declaring that the UN report is biased. I have no evidence one way or another. You can read the Administration's arguments elsewhere, but there are no surprises in this report. Is there anything that hasn't come out before? The only true surprise is the fact that the UN group is actually willing to take a stand against the United States.
The material on Abu Ghraib is horrific only in detail. We knew this before.
Why should the comments from Professor Rogers be a surprise?
By blundering into Iraq without UN backing and without a plan for winning the peace, George Bush succeeded in giving our enemies a handy boot camp.
By refusing to acknowledge that the rules of decency should apply, yes, even to the United States and even after we've been attacked ourselves, Bush has given our enemies the best recruiting poster they could ever have.