U.S. Saving Iraq from Torture and Rape?

Rape Rooms: A Chronology

What Bush said as the Iraq prison scandal unfolded.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 | Slate (Listen to this story on NPR’s Day to Day)

by William Saletan

“The Iraqi people are now free. And they do not have to worry about the secret police coming after them in the middle of the night, and they don’t have to worry about their husbands and brothers being taken off and shot, or their wives being taken to rape rooms. Those days are over.” — Paul Bremer, Administrator, [Iraq] Coalition Provisional Authority, Sept. 2, 2003

“Iraq is free of rape rooms and torture chambers.” — President Bush, remarks to 2003 Republican National Committee Presidential Gala, Oct. 8, 2003

“There was an announcement by the Iraqi Governing Council earlier this week about the tribunal that they have set up to hold accountable members of the former regime who were responsible for three decades of brutality and atrocities. — We know about the mass graves and the rape rooms and the torture chambers of Saddam Hussein’s regime. — We welcome their decision to move forward on a tribunal to hold people accountable for those atrocities.” — Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan, White House press briefing, Dec. 10, 2003

“One thing is for certain: There won’t be any more mass graves and torture rooms and rape rooms.” — Bush, press availability in Monterrey, Mexico, Jan. 12, 2004

“On 19 January 2004, Lieutenant General (LTG) Ricardo S. Sanchez, Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Seven (CJTF-7) requested that the Commander, US Central Command, appoint an Investigating Officer (IO) in the grade of Major General (MG) or above to investigate the conduct of operations within the 800th Military Police (MP) Brigade. LTG Sanchez requested an investigation of detention and internment operations by the Brigade from 1 November 2003 to present. LTG Sanchez cited recent reports of detainee abuse.” — Report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, senior U.S. military official in Iraq, describing a formal inquiry launched on Jan. 19, 2004

“Sources have revealed new details from the Army’s criminal investigation into reports of abuse of Iraqi detainees, including the location of the suspected crimes and evidence that is being sought. U.S. soldiers reportedly posed for photographs with partially unclothed Iraqi prisoners, a Pentagon official told CNN on Tuesday.” — Barbara Starr, CNN, Jan. 21, 2004

“Saddam Hussein now sits in a prison cell, and Iraqi men and women are no longer carried to torture chambers and rape rooms?” — Bush, remarks on “Winston Churchill and the War on Terror,” Feb. 4, 2004

“Seventeen U.S. soldiers have been suspended of duties pending the outcome of the investigation into alleged allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners, a U.S. officer said Monday.” — Associated Press, Feb. 23, 2004

“[B]etween October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force. — The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements (ANNEX 26) and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence. — I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

a. Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

b. Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

c. Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d. Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e. Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

f. Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g. Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

h. Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;

j. Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture;

k. A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;

l. Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee”

These findings are amply supported by written confessions provided by several of the suspects, written statements provided by detainees, and witness statements.

In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):

a. Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;

b. Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;

c. Pouring cold water on naked detainees;

d. Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;

e. Threatening male detainees with rape;

g. Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.”

  • Executive summary of Taguba report, finalized Feb. 29, 2004, briefed to superiors on March 3, 2004, and submitted in final form on March 9, 2004

“Every woman in Iraq is better off because the rape rooms and torture chambers of Saddam Hussein are forever closed.” — Bush, remarks on “Efforts to Globally Promote Women’s Human Rights,” March 12, 2004

“There’s still remnants of that regime that would like to take it back. — They could torture people and have rape rooms, and the world would turn their head from that and let it happen. But they can’t do that anymore.” — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, BBC interview, March 16, 2004

“There are no more rape rooms and torture chambers in Iraq.” — National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, CBS Early Show, March 19, 2004

“As you know, on 14 January 2004, a criminal investigation was initiated to examine allegations of detainee abuse at the Baghdad confinement facility at Abu Ghraib. Shortly thereafter, the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Seven requested a separate administrative investigation into systemic issues such as command policies and internal procedures related to detention operations. That administrative investigation is complete; however, the findings and recommendations have not been approved. As a result of the criminal investigation, six military personnel have been charged with criminal offenses to include conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault, and indecent acts with another.”–Brigadier Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director for Coalition Operations, Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing, March 20, 2004

Correspondent Brooke Hart: But in a 53-page secret report, Army Major General Antonio Taguba says an investigation found a disturbing pattern of sadistic, blatant, wanton criminal abuses. The report was completed in February, but the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Rumsfeld hadn’t read it. Democratic lawmakers are frustrated. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.: This is an unacceptable response. That’s not the level of concern the American people would expect of their military commanders for this type of conduct.” — “Pentagon officials to answer tough questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding Iraqi prisoner abuse,” CNBC, April 4, 2004

“SFC Snider grabbed my prisoner and threw him into a pile. I saw SSG Frederic, SGT Davis and CPL Graner walking around the pile hitting the prisoners. I remember SSG Frederick hitting one prisoner in the side of its [sic] ribcage. The prisoner was no danger to SSG Frederick. — I saw two naked detainees, one masturbating to another kneeling with its mouth open.” — Testimony of Military Police Specialist Matthew Wisdom, hearing on charges of prisoner abuse, April 9, 2004; according to The New Yorker, “After the hearing, the presiding investigative officer ruled that there was sufficient evidence to convene a court-martial.”

“The investigation started after SPC Darby — got a CD from CPL Graner. — He came across pictures of naked detainees.” —Testimony of Special Agent Scott Bobeck, Army Criminal Investigation Division, same hearing, April 9, 2004

“Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes II received an appeal from the Defense Department, and eventually from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to delay this broadcast — given the danger and tension on the ground in Iraq.” — CBS News statement on its broadcast of photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse, April 29, 2004, referring to a DOD appeal received on or near April 15, 2004

“Our military is — performing brilliantly. See, the transition from torture chambers and rape rooms and mass graves and fear of authority is a tough transition. And they’re doing the good work of keeping this country stabilized as a political process unfolds.” — Bush, remarks on “Tax Relief and the Economy,” Iowa, April 15, 2004

We’re facing supporters of the outlaw cleric, remnants of Saddam’s regime that are still bitter that they don’t have the position to run the torture chambers and rape rooms. — They will fail because they do not speak for the vast majority of Iraqis who do not want to replace one tyrant with another. They will fail because the will of our coalition is strong. They will fail because America leads a coalition full of the finest military men and women in the world.” — Bush, remarks on the USA Patriot Act, Pennsylvania, April 19, 2004

“We acted, and there are no longer mass graves and torture rooms and rape rooms in Iraq.” — Bush, remarks at Victory 2004 Reception, Florida, April 23, 2004

“The pictures show Americans, men and women, in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners. There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English. In some, the male prisoners are positioned to simulate sex with each other. And in most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing, or giving the camera a thumbs-up.” — Dan Rather, 60 Minutes II, April 28, 2004

“A year ago, I did give the speech from the carrier, saying that we had achieved an important objective, that we’d accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein. And as a result, there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq.” — Bush, remarks in the Rose Garden, April 30, 2004

“There are those who seek to derail the transition to democracy because they want to return to the days of mass graves and torture chambers and rape rooms. But that’s not going to happen.” –McClellan, White House press briefing, April 30, 2004

“A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba — listed some of the wrongdoing: ‘Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.’ “ — Seymour M. Hersh, “Torture at Abu Ghraib,” The New Yorker, posted April 30, 2004

“Because we acted, torture rooms are closed, rape rooms no longer exist, mass graves are no longer a possibility in Iraq.” — Bush, remarks at “Ask President Bush” event, Michigan, May 3, 2004

“I’m not a lawyer. My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. — I don’t know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there’s been a conviction for torture. And therefore I’m not going to address the torture word.” — Rumsfeld, Defense Department Operational Update Briefing, May 4, 2004

“It’s very important for people, your listeners, to understand in our country that when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act — and we act in a way where leaders are willing to discuss it with the media. And we act in a way where, you know, our Congress asks pointed questions to the leadership. — Iraq was a unique situation because Saddam Hussein had constantly defied the world and had threatened his neighbors, had used weapons of mass destruction, had terrorist ties, had torture chambers?” — Bush, interview with Al Arabiya Television, May 5, 2004

William Saletan is Slate‘s chief political correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.

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