A Scenario of Horror and Shame


Editorial in the newspaper La Voz del Interior, Córdoba, Argentina

 March 27, 2006


The transfer of the prisoners from Abu Ghraib partially closes a chapter of horror and shame in the history of the United States


The decision of President Bush’s administration to order the closing of the sadly famous prison of Abu Ghraib closes a chapter of horror and shame in the history of the United States. The pictures of torture and humiliation applied to the 4,500 prisoners, detained without trial for the simple suspicion of being members of the Iraqi resistance, shocked the world. The moral strengths which were the foundations of the building of an independent nation from the 13 English colonies in the north of America, were greatly debilitated by the arrogance of being a super-power and the increasing fear after the terrorist attack against the Twin Towers, providing dramatic evidence of its vulnerability.

In any case, a section of the citizenry, which conserves intact the ethical values of the founding generation, has mobilized to gain the trial and punishment of the torturers. Until now only seven of the “Marines” have been found guilty. Of course the sentences were all against non-commissioned officers, whereas impunity shields the officers from being involved in these affairs.

Meanwhile the Congress and the courts continue their investigations. It is possible that the legislators will be more successful than the judges in this process of improving the behavior of the occupying forces, because the Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of torturing those suspected of being linked to Islamic terrorist organizations. Related to this, Amnesty International recently denounced the continuing torture of prisoners, “still in the presence of the multinational forces (MNF in their English initials) which occupy Iraq”.

Bush closes a chapter of horror and shame in the history of his people, but he doesn’t close it completely. Because the 4,500 prisoners detained without trial will now be transferred to another special prison which is being built hurriedly in the Camp Cropper base, where Saddam Hussein and 126 leaders of his abominable dictatorship remain detained.

Abu Ghraib, where the deposed dictator’s regime committed thousands of aberrant crimes against humanity, will not be closed or turned into a museum*. The United States will stop using it for security reasons, nothing more.

“It’s in a zone vulnerable to attacks and difficult to maintain,” explained Colonel Harry Johnson, responsible for the so-called Green Zone, that is, the fortified sector of Baghdad where the command posts and prisons are located.

Abu Ghraib is, furthermore, an ominous testimony to the decadence of ethical values. André Malraux once memorably wrote that “there are no innocent armies”, and the United States seems determined to prove the truth of that statement.

Observing the participation of the United States armed forces in international conflicts, we notice a gradual and incessant decline in values. At the end of the Second World War, that country’s comportment with respect to the Nazi leaders and even the members of the sinister SS, authors of gigantic violations of human rights, was one of complete respect for the Geneva Convention which protected the physical and psychological integrity of prisoners of war. The same was the case in Korea.

But beginning with Vietnam the perverse conviction arose and became prevalent that clandestine proceedings were allowed, from torture to the disappearance of suspects, in order to combat an unconventional enemy.

The application of the Plan Phoenix in Southeast Asia ended with the disappearance of 20,000 people. But even the sinister virtue of acting clandestinely in Vietnam disappeared in Iraq, where the torture and humiliations have been filmed and videoed and came into the hands of the media with suggestive facility.

Abu Ghraib is a mere step in the interminable collapse of ethical values in contemporary civilization.                           

* The Naval Mechanics School in Buenos Aires, used during the "dirty War" by the military dictatorship to torture and murder prisoners, was closed and will be turned into a museum.