When Iraq's newly appointed prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, made the decision to order the release of more than 2500 prisoners from U.S.- and Iraqi-run prisons this week, he must have been worrying over the possibility of the U.S. bugging out next year, as he has predicted, which could leave his government with responsibility for an estimated 28,000+ detainees languishing indefinitely without any benefit of any amnesty which usually follows an armistice.
Despite the apparent killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an alleged orchestrator of violence in Iraq, the prospect for Iraq's foreseeable future is one of continued conflict, and armed, bloody resistance to the new authority. No matter what victory speech Bush contrives for our troops' inevitable staged exit, the chaotic Iraq he leaves behind won't resemble any rhetoric from him about 'defeating terrorism' or 'ending the insurgency'.
With more 'anti-insurgency' raids forecast by Maliki for the near future, backed-up by an escalation of the U.S. forces by as many as 5500 more soldiers transferred in from Kuwait and Germany, there will be an almost certain increase in the numbers of those captured and held. Releasing just 2500, out of over 28,000 detained shouldn't provide any relief to the prison population at all. It just clears space for more.
What will happen to the remaining prisoners of our manufactured war? Who will account for these Iraqis' desperately broken lives?
The majority of these prisoners - many initially captured by the Iraqis and turned over to the U.S. - have reportedly been held without charges or counsel for a year or more. Media accounts and interviews have revealed several cases of mal-nourishment and ill-health among those released. Although some say they were well-treated at the hands of their foreign captors, many Iraqi detainees have made accusations of torture and harassment, which mirror the past abuses at Abu Ghraib, and mesh with the Pentagon's deliberate omission from the Army training manual of a Geneva Convention ban on "humiliating and degrading treatment".
Rumsfeld's Nov. 27, 2002, memo approved several methods which would violate Geneva Convention rules, including:
-Putting detainees in "stress positions," such as standing, for up to four hours.
-Removing prisoners' clothes.
-Intimidating detainees with dogs.
-Interrogating prisoners for 20 hours straight.
-Forcing prisoners to wear hoods during interrogations and transport.
-Shaving prisoner's heads and beards.
-Using "mild, non-injurious physical contact," such as poking.
According to a Red Cross report in 2004 quoting coalition intelligence officers, up to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees were arrested "by mistake."
The report, confirming that Rumsfeld's directives had trickled down to the troops, cited abuses at the hands of their U.S. captors of brutality, hooding, humiliation, and threats of "imminent execution."
The report stated: "Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property,"
"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people," it said. "Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."
A March 2006, Amnesty International report entitled, 'Beyond Abu Ghraib: detention and torture in Iraq,' stated that, despite the images which were uncovered and revealed in April 2004 and February 2006 showing inmates being tortured and humiliated by US guards at Abu Ghraib, "the same failure to ensure due process that prevailed then, however, and facilitated - perhaps even encouraged such abuses – is evidenced today by the continuing detentions without charge or trial of thousands of people in Iraq who are classified by the occupation force as 'security internees'."
When should a great nation such as ours be expected to actually exercise some of the justice, due process, and freedoms that this administration claims to be defending with its "war on terrorism"? How long will the Bush regime be able to claim immunity from international law in their actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially since they now insist that the elections in both countries were about transferring authority in those countries out of U.S. hands?
There is no more immediacy to be pointed to in the U.S. claims of impunity. It's hard to see how they will be able to insist they're still at war and require some buffer between our forces and those detained who they've decided are against them. Every day that the new Iraqi authority reigns, the duplicity and imbalance of our forces becomes more and more apparent to Iraq's citizens and to the world. Every time we exercise our heavy hand there, our nation becomes more complicit in the continued unrest, violence, and subsequent killings.
The continued, unwarranted detention of rounded-up Iraqis has become a self-serving paradox: the prison population increasing as a result of the heightened violence; the violence heightened by our continuing occupation, and by the escalation of our forces in response to the increased violence.
Doesn't Bush and his posse eventually have to prove the guilt of those they have detained?
There is an unprecedented brinkmanship being played out by the Bush regime in regard to their accountability, which will either exaggerate or serve to define the limits of the authority of this Executive branch. The upcoming congressional mid-term elections will almost certainly be the final arbiter of how long he can continue to ignore the laws of the land which don't suit his dominating agenda at home and abroad. The republican Congress has refused to reign him in and will have to be replaced - if Bush isn't - in order to hold his administration responsible and accountable.
Those still held in the military prisons in Iraq deserve our attention. Those of us in the U.S., outside of the Bush regime need to exercise our responsibility to vigilance, and demand accountability of what our military and the Iraqi authority intend to do with the prisoners who are still being held.
There should be no more signal-sending torture and humiliation. That should be declared immediately by the Bush regime, and the Geneva ban on humiliation should be adopted and published in the military training manuals so that all soldiers will take heed and end the practices once and for all.
Every effort should be made, public and otherwise to investigate and prosecute reported abuses, immediately and completely. Anyone found guilty of these should be immediately dismissed and charged. Reparations should be provided where appropriate.
Amnesty lists their own concerns about the protection of detainees and prisoners, including; ending the indefinite detentions; informing detainees of the reasons for their detention; prompt court action; recognizable charges; access to counsel; recognized locations of detention; international standards for treatment and facility conditions; and access to detainees by international monitors.
Everyone, especially the American invaders, should anguish over the humanity of the Iraqis they turn over to these prisons. Most of the shuffling and rounding-up has been a reflexive, insecure response by our soldiers, probably first conceived as a process which would remove dangerous elements from the streets of Iraq and intimidate the rest of the discontented. Now, years later, the violence is still rising, and the numbers willing to openly resist the occupiers and their junta have not subsided. Iraq's new, selected prime minister is trying to get purchase on that reality with his conciliatory release of a majority of incarcerated Sunnis.
However, even this token measure can be dismissed as mere window-dressing in the face of the continuation of reprisals and struggle for dominance and control. Our nation's political and military should leaders follow the law, and follow the dictates of our own constitution when dealing with the citizens of the fractured nation of Iraq, even more so, as they continue to prosecute this contrived conflict in the name of liberty and Iraqi self-determination.
Our soldiers actions as they detain these Iraqis under command from their superiors, is a part of a larger injustice against the sovereign nation. Many of the soldiers' pursuit of the Bush regime's imperialistic schemes may yet land them in jeopardy, but these agents of America must be seen as complicit; as operators working within a flawed motive, designed by and mandated from the president down, left to the barbarity of each combatants' struggle to survive while pitted against each other by their leaders.
We all deserve, and should demand better.