[News] Cheerleader excuse for Iraq abuse

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Tue Jan 11 08:49:17 EST 2005


Cheerleader excuse for Iraq abuse

Tuesday 11 January 2005, 2:51 Makka Time, 23:51 GMT

A lawyer representing one of the alleged ringleaders in the Iraq prison 
abuse scandal has said piling naked prisoners into pyramids was comparable 
to cheerleader shows.

Charles Graner's attorney, Guy Womack, told the 10-member US military jury 
at the Texas court martial on Monday that leashing detainees was also an 
acceptable prisoner control.

In opening arguments at the reservist sergeant's trial in Fort Hood, Womack 
asked: "Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight 
times a year. Is that torture?"

Graner and Private Lynndie England, with whom he fathered a child and who 
is also facing a court-martial, became the faces of the Abu Ghraib prison 
scandal after they appeared in photographs that showed degraded, naked 

The trial is expected to last at least a week. The 36-year-old faces up to 
17 years in prison, but has pleaded not guilty.

But four of seven accused members of Graner's unit have already pleaded 
guilty to abuse charges and three have been sentenced to prison.

Court martial debate

The prosecution showed some of those pictures in their opening argument, 
including several of naked Iraqi men piled on each other and another of 
England holding a crawling naked Iraqi man on a leash.

Womack said using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees, 
especially those who might be soiled with faeces.

"You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in 
corrections," he said. "In Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there."

He compared the leash to parents who place tethers on their toddlers while 
walking in shopping malls.

Bigger picture

However, pictures of the humiliating treatment of the prisoners at the Abu 
Ghraib prison outside Baghdad prompted outrage around the world and further 
eroded the credibility of the US already damaged in many countries by the 
2003 Iraq invasion.

The Bush administration has said the actions were those of a small group 
and were not part of a policy or condoned by senior officers.

But investigations have shown many prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and at 
the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba also suffered abusive treatment 
after the government considered ways to obtain information in the war 
against terrorism.


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