By Simon Assaf
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2003

Documents confirm horror of Abu Ghraib

This article is over 17 years, 8 months old
A new batch of declassified US army documents has strengthened the case that torture in Iraq and Afghanistan was officially sanctioned, widespread and systematic.
Issue 2003

A new batch of declassified US army documents has strengthened the case that torture in Iraq and Afghanistan was officially sanctioned, widespread and systematic.

Last week George Bush apologised for the abuse at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, describing it as “a mistake”. But the new documents show that the abuse simply reflected the colonial mentality of the US?led occupation – and that it was ordered from above.

One key document, dated 19 May 2004 and recently unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), includes the testimony of a US officer. It outlines a 35-page order commanding interrogators to “go to the outer limits to get information from the detainees”.

The order was sanctioned by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the US military commander in Iraq at the time. Another document, entitled “Allegations of Detainee Abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan” and dated 2 April 2004, shows that senior officials were aware of the abuse.

Anthony Romero of the ACLU said the document proves that “this abuse of power was engineered and accepted at the highest levels of government”.

Over the past two years the ACLU has forced the US government to declassify over 100,000 pages of documents. The new batch relates to incidents at Iraqi facilities including Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca, and detention centres in the cities of Mosul, Samarra, Baghdad and Tikrit.

They cover the period from the 2003 invasion until the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. Many of the documents have been heavily censored, with names of the torturers and their victims blacked out.


But they expose the grim logic of occupation of Iraq – a logic which stands in the worst tradition of the British in colonial India or the US in Vietnam.

One document tells of a teenager arrested for looting who was taken into the desert, tortured and subjected to a mock execution. In another incident a soldier threatened to shoot a child in front of its parents to “send a message to the Iraqis”.

Another report describes how a soldier threw rocks at two children who were handcuffed and helpless.

Other documents log the rape of detainees, sexual humiliations, and torture involving the electrocution and choking of detainees.

There is a report of a middle aged man who was tied to the bonnet of a US military vehicle and driven around until the heat from the engine burnt the flesh off his hands, stomach and legs.

The report notes that the prisoner’s pleas for mercy were answered with repeated beatings.

Another investigation describes how a US army doctor gave a detainee painkillers so that his torture could continue.

Some of the most disturbing records detail the abuse of female detainees in Abu Ghraib. In one case a women was repeatedly drugged and raped by US soldiers during her detention.

Another women describes how she was raped in front of her husband. These cases date from the period when both the US and British government denied holding any women captives in the prison.

The revelations confirm claims by the Iraqi resistance of an appeal smuggled out by women prisoners, which called on insurgents to bomb the section of the jail where they were being held.

In the letter, which was dismissed by US authorities at the time as “propaganda”, a women named Nour appeals to fighters, “We scream for help to save us from these beasts, but no one seems to hear our desperate cry.


“If there is still an atom of honour in your hearts, do attack this notorious prison with every weapon at your disposal, killing them and us altogether because our wombs are already pregnant with their bastards.”

The ACLU has filed requests for the declassification of further US military documents covering Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

The declassified Abu Ghraib documents can be accessed at

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