[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

Sexual Torture


“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 George’s 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 public’s 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 
Taguba’s 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 
 resulting in 
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 report’s 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. It’s OK if they beat 
me,” al Shweiri said. “Beatings don’t hurt us; 
it’s just a blow. But no one would want their manhood to be shattered.”

Scotland’s “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, 
 and the 
female soldier was taking pictures.”

London’s “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 couldn’t; 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 Obama’s election, the U.S. military has 
probably ceased employing “harsh interrogation 
techniques.” Unfortunately, given Obama’s 
pragmatism, the Congress’ complicity, the 
military’s bureaucratic zealotry and the CIA’s 
(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.

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