Wednesday, March 15, 2006

They called him "shitboy"

Salon has more Abu Ghraib pictures up. They do not reveal the bottomless horror that Seymour Hersh warned us of, but they tell us a few more things. The first round of Abu Ghraib pictures published included a photo of a man covered in what was inevitably referred to as "a brown substance." We now know that the substance was, in fact, human shit and that the guards at Abu Ghraib nicknamed the prisoner "shitboy." The defense department documents identify him by name, which Salon has redacted to M-----. M----- is the same man who was seen in the last round of pictures posted at Salon being sodomized with a yellow object. The new photos and text reveal that object to be a banana.

It appears that M----- was mentally deranged when he was picked up. In fact, he may have been picked up simply because he was mentally deranged. Many of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were arrested for ordinary crimes. Some of the women there were held on suspicion of prostitution, including this woman whom Charles Graner photographed topless. (And how can that possibly be considered consensual?)

All this puts the lie to the constant Republican reassurance that the US prisons are for terrorists and "the worst of the worst." They are filled with whomever soldiers felt like victimizing. Crazy street people. Women who look like prostitutes.

Apparently the military concluded that Abu Ghraib guards did not smear M----- with shit, nor did they sodomize him with a banana. They merely stood by, took pictures, and thought up juvenile nicknames, while he smeared himself in shit and sodomized himself with a banana. This alone would amount to criminal abuse, but the pictures themselves conflict with the military’s story.

In the middle of the three pictures where M----- is being sodomized, the shackles on his hands are visible poking out from the edge of the blanket, and he has plastic riot cuffs on his feet. This is not a man who could seek out blunt objects to sodomize himself with on his own. At the very least, his captors must have provided him with the tools to humiliate himself.

Look at the shit pictures again, if you can. His legs are shackled again. He has a lot of shit all over him, including his back. Some of that may be mud--there is a pool of standing water behind him. Still, the guards would have had a much easier time smearing him with all of that offal than he would have had smearing himself.

There are also plenty of pictures where completely bound, including one where he is mashed between two wooden pallets, with Charles Graner sitting on top of the whole sandwich. This looks like a man who is under the control of the guards, who is bound when they feel like humiliating him, and who is freed when they want to see his amusing antics.

The public still does not have enough information to judge what the hell was going on at Abu Ghraib, but the findings of the defense department self-examination are entirely unsatisfactory.

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