[Ppnews] Sexual Torture - prolonged nudity
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 15 20:57:31 EDT 2009
May 15-17, 2009
What is Acknowledged and What Remains Unknown
By DAVID ROSEN
Removal of clothing was authorized by the
Secretary of Defense [Rumsfeld] for use at GTMO
[Guantánamo] on December 2, 2002, acknowledges
the recently released U.S. Senate Armed Service
Committee report on the use of harsh
interrogation techniques. It also reports that
the use of prolonged nudity proved so effective
that, in January 2003, it was approved for use in
Afghanistan and, in the fall of 2003, was adopted for use in Iraq.
Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody
The Senate report came out shortly after a secret
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
report on CIA torture techniques used as part of
its detention program was leaked by Mark Danner
of the New York Review of Books. These reports
provoked a storm of media attention, much of it
focused on the use of waterboarding (or what the
ICRC more aptly calls suffocation by water)
and, in particular, its use on Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times.
The media paid less attention to the host of what
the ICRC calls the other methods of
ill-treatment. The Senate report identifies
these techniques as: use of military dogs, stress
positions and physical training, sleep
adjustment/sleep management, sensory deprivation
and removal of clothing. The ICRC identifies them
as: prolonged stress standing, beating by use of
a collar, beating and kicking, confinement in a
box, sleep deprivation and use of load music,
exposure to cold temperature/cold water,
prolonged use of handcuffs and shackles, threats,
forced shaving, deprivation/restricted provision
of solid food and prolonged nudity.
These reports, together with the recent release
of Bush-administration torture memos, helped
focus national attention on a shameful, if not
illegal, aspect of mad king Georges War on
Terror. However, these reports are official
documents based on revelations of a very limited
number of sources. The information gathered,
while invaluable, is limited by these sources.
The limited sources limit the publics knowledge
of the full scope of the torture committed by
American intelligence agents, military officers
and private contractors. Focusing on the issue of
sexual torture, which includes prolonged nudity,
reveals what has been made public but also what
has yet to become publicly acknowledged.
Failure to publicly acknowledge the full scope of
sexual torture, along with all the other harsh
interrogation techniques, creates a sanitized,
official, history. Americans will never know
what torture was committed in their name, nor be
able to hold accountable those who ordered and
executed these actions unless they go beyond official sources.
* * *
The ICRC conducted interviews with fourteen
enemy combatants from eight countries. The
detainees were arrested over a nearly three-year
period, from March 2002 through May 2005. Eleven
of the detainees were subject to prolonged nudity
during detention and interrogation, ranging from
several weeks continuously up to several months intermittently.
The ICRC recounts what it calls the alleged
experiences of seven detainees subject to prolonged nudity:
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed kept naked for one month in Afghanistan.
Abu Zubaydah kept naked for two-and-a-half
weeks in Afghanistan after recovering at a
Pakistan hospital; he reports subsequently being
repeatedly provided with clothing and then stripped naked for weeks at a time.
Walid Bin Attash kept naked two weeks in
Afghanistan and again for a month in a second but unknown detention facility.
Encep Nuraman (aka Hambali) kept naked for
four or five days in Thailand and a week in
Afghanistan, followed by intermittent periods of being clothed and naked.
Majid Khan kept naked for three days in
Afghanistan and seven days in his third place of detention.
Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep kept naked three to
four days in Thailand and nine days in Afghanistan.
Unnamed detainee kept naked for two to three
months in Afghanistan and then faced intermittent
periods of being clothed and naked.
The sources of these reports were interviews with the detainees.
The Senate report provides a far different
assessment on what it calls removal of
clothing. It makes clear that the use of
prolonged nudity found strong support within the
CIA and military as an interrogation technique.
It reports that nudity was imported into Iraq,
especially Abu Ghraib prison, from Afghanistan and GTMO.
It states that this technique served a number of
critical interrogation purposes, including to
humiliate detainees, to renew capture shock
of detainees and as an incentive for good
behavior. It use was extensive, as indicated by
two of the many officers interviewed. COL Jerry
Philabaum, the Commander of the 320th MP, reports
seeing between 12-15 detainees naked in their
own individual cells. CPT Donald Reese, the
Commander of the 372nd MP Company, acknowledged
that prolonged nudity was known to everyone and
it was common practice to walk the tier and see
detainees with clothing and bedding. Other officers made similar statements.
Like the ICRC report, the Senate report draws
extensively on interviews, but these interviews
are with Army officers from the Military Police
and intelligence. In addition, the Senate report
draws on a number of publicly released military
report, most notably by Major General George Fay,
known as the Fay Report. One of its quotes is
remarkably candid, perhaps more revealing than
originally intended: detention created an
environment that would appear to condone
depravity and degradation rather than humane
treatment of detainees. The report also makes a
single passing reference to Major General Antonio
Tagubas report on Abu Ghraib.
* * *
The first enemy combatants arrive at Guantánamo
on January 11, 2002, nearly a year before
Rumsfeld officially authorized the use of sexual
torture. According to a CBS timeline, a U.S. Air
Force plane from Afghanistan touches down at
Guantanamo carrying 20 prisoners, marking the
start of the detention operation. [CBS News
Gitmo Timeline, August 24, 2004] In the Senate
report, SMU [Special Mission Unit] TF [Task
Force] Commander [name blacked out] states that
when he took command [of Guantánemo] he
discovered that some of the detainees were not
allowed clothes as an interrogation technique
[blacked out] said he terminated the practice in
December 2003 or January 2004.
The disclosures about prolonged nudity received
little public discussion. Compared to the many
far worse techniques employed, most notably
suffocation by water, head beating, kicking,
stress positions, uses of dogs and sleep
deprivation, sexual torture seems rather modest.
But its purpose was, along with the other
techniques, clear. As the ICRC notes, it was
clearly designed to undermine human dignity and
create a sense of futility
exhaustion, depersonalization and dehumanization.
However, drawing upon other sources paints a
different picture, one far less sanitized and
much more sadistic. What is not known is whether
these additional techniques were approved by U.S.
military and civilian leaders or were the
improvised actions of frontline officers and
contractors? A few examples illustrate these techniques.
The best single source on the use of sexual
torture at Abu Ghraib remains the Taguba report.
In the reports executive summary, the following
"sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses
are identified as having been used at the prison:
* forcing detainees to remove their clothing and
keeping them naked for several days at a time;
* forcing detainees to remove their clothing and
keeping them naked for several days at a time;
* videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;
* forcibly arranging detainees in various
sexually explicit positions for photographing;
* forcing naked male detainees to wear women's underwear;
* forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate
themselves while being photographed and videotaped;
* arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;
* positioning a naked detainee on a MRE [meals
ready to eat] Box, with a sandbag on his head,
and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and
penis to simulate electric torture;
* placing a dog chain or strap around a naked
detainee's neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture;
* sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.
Why did this part of the Taguba report not appear
in the Senate report? Its absence speaks to the
way official reports are sanitized and an inside
the Beltway history is written. [see "Sexual
Terrorism: The Sadistic Side of Bush's War on
Terror," CounterPunch, May 13, 2008]
The U.S. and international press revealed
disturbing episodes of sexual terror used by
American forces. For example, The Associated
Press reported that a former inmate, Dhia
al-Shweiri, was ordered by American soldiers to
strip naked, bend over and place his hands on a
wall; while not sodomized, he says he was
humiliated: We are men. Its OK if they beat
me, al Shweiri said. Beatings dont hurt us;
its just a blow. But no one would want their manhood to be shattered.
Scotlands Sunday Herald reported that a former
Iraqi prisoner claimed that there is a photo of a
civilian translator raping a male juvenile
prisoner; he stated, They covered all the doors
with sheets. I heard the screaming,
female soldier was taking pictures.
Londons Independent reported on the experience
of Hayder Sabbar Abd, immortalized as the man in
the hood in infamous Abu Ghraib photo of Lynndie
England. Abd alleges that he was ordered to
masturbate as Ms. England put her hands on her
breasts," which he couldnt; and to simulate
fellatio with another prisoner, which he appears to have done.
The Sydney Morning Herald noted: Female
interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at
Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a
miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case
smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual
blood, according to an insider's written account.
* * *
Sexual torture served two purposes on those
subjected to such abuse: to physically harm and
to emotionally scar. It was intended to break
male inmates. It sought to inflict both pain and
shame, to make the recipient suffer and loathe
himself. Sexual torture attempted to break the
victim both physically and spiritually, to leave
scars on (and inside) the body and in the psyche.
With Obamas election, the U.S. military has
probably ceased employing harsh interrogation
techniques. Unfortunately, given Obamas
pragmatism, the Congress complicity, the
militarys bureaucratic zealotry and the CIAs
(and private contractors) immorality, one can
only wonder what would happen if another September 11th occurred.
The full scope of harsh interrogation
techniques used during the War on Terror is
unknown. Nor is it fully known who within the
Bush administration approved the use of such
technique, not who within the U.S. military and
intelligence community (along with private
contractors) used such techniques. Answers to
these questions should be the first task of any
official investigation of the War on Terror.
And those undertaking the investigation should
use a far wider assortment of sources than those
deemed official. Only then will the American
people understand what was done in their name
and, hopefully, how to stop it from happening again.
David Rosen is the author of Sex Scandal
America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming
and can be reached at <mailto:drosen at ix.netcom.com>drosen at ix.netcom.com.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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