US report on prison abuse a ‘whitewash’

25 July 2004 | Agence France Press

US newspapers The New York Times and The Washington Post have opened fire at the conclusions of a report by the US Army on abuses in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the Times calling it a “whitewashing” to exonerate the high command.

“A newly released report by the Army’s inspector general shows that Mr Rumsfeld’s team may be turning over stones, but it’s not looking under them,” the Times said in an editorial.

“The authors of this 300-page whitewash say they found no ‘systemic’ problem – even though there were 94 documented cases of prisoner abuse, including some 40 deaths, 20 of them homicides; even though only four prisons of the 16 they visited had copies of the Geneva Conventions; even though Abu Ghraib was a cesspool with one shower for every 50 inmates; even though the military police were improperly involved in interrogations; even though young people plucked from civilian life were sent to guard prisoners – 50,000 of them in all – with no training,” it said.

“Even the report’s release on Thursday was an exercise in misdirection, timed to be overshadowed by the 9/11 commission’s report,” the Times noted.

The Post noted “the probe concluded by sounding the defence offered up by the Pentagon ever since the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison were published: that the crimes did not result from Army policy and were not the fault of senior commanders but were ‘unauthorised actions taken by a few individuals’.

“This conclusion is contradicted by the independent investigations and reports of the International Committee of the Red Cross, by an earlier Army investigation undertaken before the scandal became public, and by testimony given to Congress.

“Oddly, it doesn’t even square with some of the findings buried in the inspector general’s own report, which confirm that commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan ordered ‘high-risk’ interrogation procedures to be used on prisoners without adequate safeguards, training or regard for the Geneva Conventions,” the Post added.

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