Where does it stop? The events at Abu Ghraib prison show no signs of vanishing into historical inertia. On the contrary, they seem to be replicating themselves throughout the defenceless body politic of the 'coalition of the willing': even the Danes now apparently have their scandal. The photographs of British misdeeds made public after a hapless soldier took his film to be developed at a shop on his local high street have given us Camp Bread Basket, another probable icon of infamy. The photos are hard to read. Are the clenched fists and heavy boots caught in midair about to break the bones and bruise the flesh of defenceless prisoners, or are they posed for the camera in a gesture of simulated, lookalike bravado? Are they staged re-enactments of beatings that have already taken place, or prophecies of those to come? We will not know more until the court martial runs its course, and we may not know everything even then. The assessment has just begun. Meanwhile in the US the American Civil Liberties Union recently released another report listing various cases of torture and abuse, some already investigated and others, often involving the Special Forces, perhaps yet to be explored or convincingly resolved.
LRB 17 February 2005 | PDF Download