History Repeats Itself: Abu Gharib & U.S. Immigration Detention Centers

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During the second Iraq War, (2003) personnel of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A) committed a series of human rights violations against detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The abuses included physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder.

In July of 2003, Amnesty International issued a press release condemning widespread human rights abuses by U.S. forces. The release stated that prisoners had been exposed to extreme heat, not provided clothing and forced to use open trenching for toilets. Many of the prisoners had also been tortured, with the methods including denial of sleep for extended periods, exposure to bright lights and loud music, and being restrained in uncomfortable positions

In November of 2003. A prisoner named Manadel al-Jamaidi died after a CIA officer named Mark Swanner and a private contractor, interrogated and tortured him. The torture included physical violence and strappado hanging. Neither of the two men involved were charged with murder.

The torture scandal came to widespread public attention in April 2004, when a 60 minutes news report was aired, it described the abuse, including pictures showing military personnel taunting naked prisoners. The Bush administration did not initially acknowledge the abuses, but once those pictures started coming out, the abuse subject could no longer be ignored. Bush described the abuses as the actions of a few individuals, who were disregarding the values of the US. (the old lone gunman theory) Scholars studying the abuses have stated that the abuses were part of a widespread systematic pattern. In particular, Vice — President Dick Cheney’s office had played a central role in eliminating limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions. The administration later portrayed these as the initiatives of lower-ranking officials. In the end, 11 soldiers were convicted of charges most only received minor convictions.

Fast forward to July 2019, President Trump has engineered a strict compliance setting on the issue of immigration. Congressmen and women, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Veronica Escobar, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Rashida Tlaib and Joaquin Castro all visited a Texas immigration detention center. All of the listed would later state the living conditions at the facility are unacceptable.

Castro tweeted “many of the woman detainees don’t have access to the medication they need or access to doctors. The detainees are denied showers for up to 15 days and some are separated from their children.” Castro also tweeted that “people are crammed into a prison-like cell with one toilet, but no running water to drink from or wash their hands with.” Castro also stated the showers were dank, dirty and too small in numbers to accommodate everyone there. Ocasio -Cortez tweeted that people were told to “drink out of the toilets.” Ocasio-Corte also tweeted “one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as psychological warfare, waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them whores, etc.”

On the website ProPublica, it was reported that a secret facebook group of former and current border agents were making racial and derogatory comments about the detainees. A few agents responded with indifference and wisecracks to the posts of a news story, about a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in custody at a border patrol station in Texas. One member posted a GIF of Elmo with the quote, “oh well.” Another responded with an image and the words “if he dies, he dies.” When Matthew Bowen, a border patrol agent was arrested for running down a Guatemalan migrant with a pick-up truck, disturbing texts were found on his phone. The texts described migrants as “guats.” “wild ass shitbags,” “beaners,” and “subhuman.” The messages also included repeated discussions about burning the migrants up.

In another thread, a group member posted a photo of a father and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down in the Rio Grande. The pair drowned while trying to wade through the river and cross into the U.S. one member of the group asked if the photo could have been fake because the bodies are so “clean.” The member thought the picture was edited though it was taken by an associated press photographer.

In Abu Ghraib, it has been reported that most inmates were innocent of the crimes they were accused of and were simply detained due to their being in the right place at the wrong time. In the case of the current day detention centers, it doesn’t seem conditions nor treatment at the centers will get any better any time soon.

Mistakes Were Made:

In times of war, or in times of stressful fearful situations, people get tribal. People stop seeing those that are different than them as fellow humans and thus feel it is ok to treat people like they are subhuman. You see this tale play out in warfare throughout the ages over and over again. The two stories I regaled you with earlier one is current times and not dealing with war. The other was only a little over a decade ago and sort of dealt with conflict. Both involved the US government and how their troops or guards treat detainees and prisoners. In Abu Ghraib, it was a systematic policy from the Vice President on down to torture, harass and demean the Iraqis.

Some will say, that the methods the U.S. used in Abu Ghirab were necessary to fight against “terrorism,” but you must remember Iraq was not behind the 9/11 attacks. More importantly, A Senate Armed Services Committee report explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe. So we were basically torturing to just be torturing under the false premise that we were helping our country.

A lot of people are unaware that, there are many unseen worse photos from the Abu Ghraib scandal that weren’t released to the public. The pics were stated to be harmful to the current troops. This policy was in place under Bush, Obama and still present today. Though there is a kernel of truth to that, I feel the U.S. Government is trying to sterilize and wipe clean the stain of the Abu Ghraib scandals off its history books.

The issue when you do things like that is, the mistakes and lessons aren’t learned and gets repeated. That brings us back to this detention center fiasco going on. Again, no warfare going on, but because the current President ran on a platform of Xenophopia among other things, he has a lot of his supporters and border agents thinking immigrants are the enemy. These people are just seeking a better life and are willing to die to get it, but because they are the enemy it is ok to dehumanize them, treat them substandardly, deny them water and showers, separate them from their kids and call them shitbags. Just like Abu Ghirab, most Americans are oblivious to the atrocities our country are committing and I believe history is repeating itself

Originally published at https://mwmblog.com on July 22, 2019.

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