Abu Ghraib and the Treatment of Prisoners in the U.S. Penal System

Like the vast majority of people, experience revulsion, utter disgust and a degree of sadness every time hear of the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners which occurred n the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad on the radio, watch t on television or read accounts in newspapers or magazines. The report of prisoners beaten to death during interrogation is particularly disturbing. It is abundantly clear to most people that the seven military personnel with the 372nd Military Police company are only the tip of the iceberg of the scandal as more of the facts of what happened at Abu Ghraib come to light. I find it ironic that the first military court martial to take place was for the person who photographed the abuse, The Arab world is outraged, in fact the whole world is outraged, at the images of depravity captured on film in Saddam Hussein's former prison of horrors, now used for the same purpose by the U.S. occupation forces, the ?liberators? of the Iraqi people. Now only the most naﶥ can harbor the expectation that the prisoners of the coalition forces will be, and are being, treated accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

Two American soldiers pose behind a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners.
(Private Lynndie England stands arm in arm with Specialist Graner)


It may be surprising to some, but not to me, that two of the accused MPs involved are U.S. prison guards; Specialist Charles Graner, from a top security death row prison in Pennsylvania , and Staff Sergeant Ivan ?Chip? Frederick, from a Virginia prison. While Graner worked as a guard at Greene County Correctional Institution, that prison was at the center of an abuse scandal in which guards allegedly routinely beat and humiliated prisoners. These are two shining examples of the sickness in U.S. prisons being exported to Iraq in the form of MPs with corrections backgrounds who are at tempting to use the infamous Nuremberg Defense of ?we were only following orders? one can only hope it works for them the same as it did for Nazi war criminals not at all. It is safe to assume that the other MPs these two cretins were deployed with looked to their experiences and judgment due to their past handling of prisoners; prison guards look to their more experienced colleagues for guidance and examples of proper conduct the inexperienced led by the depraved. Routinely in the U.S. , when prison guards are accused of abusive treatment by prisoners, the judicial system symbolically winks at their actions while dismissing charges and/or lawsuits brought by inmates. The cold, hard fact is that prison guards are at best scarcely monitored and the abuse of prisoners is inherent in state and federal prison systems. It cannot be any other way the slaveholding heritage in this nation is kept alive by the guard culture, where prisoners are thought of and treated as subhuman creatures, things, and animals (to list only a few of the labels I have personally heard used by guards.

Similar abuses routinely occur in prisons across the U.S. without any national attention, international outrage or media coverage; sexual assaults, beatings and humiliation of prisoners (both male and female), covered up and kept out of sight while those who earn a living? directly from the misery of their captives chuckle as they continue to strip them of all human dignity. Prisoners have to endure their abuse for years until it becomes the ?norm.? the treatment they receive going beyond the depravity of their punishment. If you have the slightest doubt about what I am saying, then check out the archives of the events at Brazoria County Jail in Texas, September 1996 A drug raid on inmates there was videotaped, and the images are comparable to abuse of the Iraqi prisoners; inmates were forced to strip, crawl along the floor while being prodded with stun guns, and dogs were let loose on several of them. Injured prisoners were dragged face down back to their cells, much as one would drag a heavy garbage bag across the floor. Where was the national outrage then? The hand wringing of the lefties in the U.S. ?

Inmates are routinely stripped in front of other prisoners and in full view of opposite gender staff. Inmates are rout humiliated, cursed, or beaten (some of them to death) in U.S. prisons. Where is the indignant posturing and bubbling outrage of the sensitive citizens of this country Inmates are humiliated in ways finely honed and perfect ed, and done with skill and expertise, while those performing the abuse at Abu Ghraib were clearly amateurs by comparison. Their conduct was predictable; sadistic guidance and approval evidently trickled down the chain of command, encouraging their sadistic conduct. There can be no doubt about this. After all, the man assigned the task of re-opening Abu Ghraib under U.S supervision, Lane McCotter, was forced to resign under pressure as director of the Utah Department of Corrections in 1997 after a men tally ill inmate suffering from schizophrenia died while shackled-naked-to a restraining chair for sixteen hours. Sound familiar?

There is a case currently pending in the5? U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Johnson versus Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Roderick Johnson was a sex slave, bought and sold by prison gangs, even after he appealed to prison guards for help. Various corrections experts are reputed to have carefully stated that they do not know to what extent the brutality and humiliation that occurred at Abu Ghraib was an intentional strategy to break prisoners for interrogation, or if they were just random acts. What a crock! Politicians are saying its time for the full picture of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal to be exposed That will have to start with the abuse of U.S prisoners in state and federal institutions; it's clear that this sick ness was exported to Iraq

When reports of abuse in U.S prisons have merited media coverage, they have been given quick burps of attention and then quickly disappear The public generally ignores these reports because they're desensitized by clever politicians trying to get more votes for being tough on crime/criminals and the leftists who claim to care about those abused by government, bury their collective heads in the sand, hoping that such unpleasant things will just go away. In this country beached whales and clubbed baby seas often receive more media cover age than prisoner abuse scandals and seem to merit more concern from the left than severely abused and sometimes murdered American prisoners.

The Bush administration was clearly alerted to the abuse going on at Abu Ghraib, not only internally but from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The administration remained silent about it until the story broke due to the photographs being posted on the internet. Only after this happened did the military publicly admit to investigating 25 n-custody deaths (possibly accidental possibly not) of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq . We know when a story goes public on an international scale that it's time for the professional liars to try to salvage political and military careers a mad scramble to pick fall guys to take the rap Not only was the sickness of U S. prisons exported to Iraq but the react on to public exposure from prison and military officials is comparable if not identical and equally predictable Bush Cheney Rumsfeld Rice and the rest of the administration are expressing their ?shock, outrage and disgust? at the s so-called Un-American behavior But some of us know that if is all too American a continuation of the dehumanization and genocide of Native American peoples, the enslavement and later J m Crow segregation imposed on African- American people, the ?resettlement of Japanese-Americans during WWII and the modern-day treatment of all prisoners

The typical attitude that many Americans have and what I have heard voiced in a p- son setting by a captive who suffers borderline institutionalization or Stockholm syndrome s the same as that recently ex pressed by Sen James Inhofe (R. OkIa) to the Senate Armed Forces Committee he said that he and some other senators are ?more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment? of Iraqi prisoners ?The idea that these prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations If they are in

Cell Block 1A or 1 B, these prisoners, they are murderers They're terrorists. They're insurgents. Many of them probably (emphasis added) have American blood on their hands, and here we re so concerned about the treatment of those individuals ? You can close your eyes and imagine this enlightened politician describing the prisons in Oklahoma the same way, especially during an election year imagine his outrage when watching busloads of Iraqi prisoners being released now that the scandal has been exposed prisoner abuse is a fine American tradition, a fact that can attested by current and former prisoners across the country if anyone would be willing to listen. More often than not, however, a desensitized American public including a majority of those on the Left turn deaf ears to what these people have to say; their stories of abuse are too painful to accept as reality, too difficult to consider the truth that human beings could do this to their less fortunate fellow human beings. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners was clearly amateurish. The most effective techniques for breaking minds and spirits, destroying dignity humanity and occasionally lives, have been perfected over many centuries The professionals are here.

Harold H. Thompson