So It’s Not Torture If We Blame It On ‘A Few Bad Apples’, Right?

May 28, 2009
Prison guards secure the main gate of the newly named Baghdad Central Prison in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib February 21, 2009. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen/Files

Prison guards secure the main gate of the newly named Baghdad Central Prison in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib February 21, 2009. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen/Files

Not good:

Photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse which U.S. President Barack Obama does not want released include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Thursday. […]

“These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,” [U.S. Major General Antonio] Taguba, who retired in January 2007, was quoted as saying in the paper. […]

Based on what he’s seen, Taguba supports Obama’s decision not to release the photos: “The mere depiction of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

More specifically:

The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Others are said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon [aka baton], wire and a phosphorescent tube.

There are 400 cases alleging abuse.

I understand the distinction between so-called enhanced interrogation (or methods that may be considered torture) and abuse: one is sanctioned through the chain of command and the other is not.

However, as the details and the breadth of this abuse becomes more known, one has to wonder the validity of the ‘a few bad apples’ defense applied to Private Lynndie England et al.

If the military runs a prison and establishes a culture in that prison – obviously shaped and sanctioned by commanding officers –  such that abuse is disturbingly heinous and increasingly common, does the sanctioning and perpetuation of that culture by superior officers not push those acts from abuse to torture?

On an LGBT note, that instance of male/male rape is not going to be good for efforts to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.