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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Was Rape an Enhanced Interrogation Technique?

There are those who argue that U.S. officials who authorized waterboarding and who performed waterboarding should not be held criminally accountable, notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. government prosecuted Japanese military personnel who waterboarded U.S. POWs during World War II. Their reasoning goes as follows: Since the president’s attorneys redefined torture to mean only those actions that threaten death or serious injury to bodily organs, waterboarding did not meet that redefinition.

What about rape? It would seem that rape, like waterboarding, would not meet the Bush administration’s redefinition of torture. Rape doesn’t threaten death or serious injury to bodily organs. Should U.S. officials who authorized enhanced interrogation techniques be let off the hook for rapes committed by U.S. officials as part of enhanced interrogations of detainees?

That of course begs the question: Were people raped as part of the U.S. government’s enhanced interrogation techniques?

Well, think back to the Abu Ghrab photos and videos, which depicted sordid sexual acts being committed by U.S. personnel on Iraqi prisoners. You may have forgotten that there was a particular set of photos and videos that were never released to the public because they depicted acts that were apparently much worse than anything that was shown in the photos that were released. Therefore, U.S. officials decided to keep those particular photos and videos under lock and key.

What do those photos and videos reflect? We don’t really know, but according to an article dated July 15, 2004, on Salon.com, Seymour Hersh is quoted as saying in a speech to the ACLU:

Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying “Please come and kill me, because of what's happened” and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out.

The Salon article concludes with the following paragraph:

(Update: A reader brought to our attention that the rape of boys at Abu Ghraib has been mentioned in some news accounts of the prisoner abuse evidence. The Telegraph and other news organizations described “a videotape, apparently made by US personnel, is said to show Iraqi guards raping young boys.” The Guardian reported “formal statements by inmates published yesterday describe horrific treatment at the hands of guards, including the rape of a teenage Iraqi boy by an army translator.”)
It should be noted that that batch of photos and videos is a different batch from the ones that the Obama administration is now doing its best to keep secret. The rationale for keeping both batches secret is that the photos and videos will inflame anger and hatred among foreigners against the United States. It’s difficult to imagine how the photos and videos that are being kept secret could be much worse than the Abu Ghraib photos and videos that were released, but one distinct possibility is that they show people being raped.

Is it inconceivable that rape was employed as an enhanced interrogation technique? Well, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a regime used rape as an enhanced interrogation technique. Think back to the Pinochet coup in Chile, a coup in which the CIA played a role — as yet undefined — in the murder of a young American journalist, Charles Horman, at the hands of Pinochet’s forces. According to an article in The Independent, “Prisoners at both centres were subjected to electric shocks, severe beatings, suspensions from ceilings until their wrists tore, and rapes.”

If U.S. officials are going to continue keeping both batches of photos and videos secret, isn’t it incumbent on them to put all questions to rest respecting the issue of rape? How about a sworn affidavit signed by three members of Congress who have viewed the evidence stating unequivocally that the photos and videos do not depict rape in any form or fashion?

If it turns out that the secret photos and videos do show that people were being raped pursuant to the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques, I’d like to see defenders of waterboarding explain why those who authorized, ordered, condoned, and performed such rapes should be let off the hook too.

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Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, publisher of Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax by Sheldon Richman. Send him email.

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