Wednesday, May 02, 2007


We're worried about what happens when we hand over prisoners to the Afghans - maybe we need to worry about handing them over to the Americans.

From the start, the processing of prisoners entailed some grisly practices. When Captain Carolyn Wood assumed control of the prison in the summer of 2002--she ran it until taking over Abu Ghraib a year later--interrogation tactics came to include beatings, anal violation with sharp objects, blows to the genitals, and "peroneal" strikes (an incapacitating blow to the leg with a baton, a knee, or a shin). We know about these tactics because an internal Army investigation into two prisoner deaths was obtained by The New York Times. These detainees--a 22-year-old taxi driver and the brother of a Taliban commander--were found dead and hanging from the wrists by shackles. A coroner's report said the two men died after being subjected to dozens of peroneal strikes. According to the coroner's report, the "pulpified" legs of one of the corpses looked as if they had "been run over by a bus."

During these early years, one of the most notorious figures at the prison was Private First Class Damien M. Corsetti, known in turns as the "King of Torture" and "Monster." Corsetti tattooed an Italian translation of the latter moniker across his stomach. In the end, a military tribunal cleared Corsetti of all charges. His lawyer successfully argued before the tribunal that the rules for detainee treatment were unclear: "The president of the United States doesn't know what the rules are. The secretary of defense doesn't know what the rules are. But the government expects this Pfc. to know what the rules are?" But, in the course of proving his innocence, Corsetti revealed several damning details. One of the prisoners he called to testify on his behalf told the military judges that a Saudi detainee recounted how Corsetti had threatened to rape him. He had even taken out his penis and yelled, "This is your God!"

It's not that Bagram has entirely escaped scrutiny. Army investigators have recommended criminal charges for 27 alleged Bagram-based torturers. But, of these 27, only four soldiers have been sentenced to prison time--for no more than several months. The alleged abusers have evaded punishment largely with the help of, among others, Donald Rumsfeld, who approved a December 2002 memorandum that permitted the use of stripping, dogs, and stress positions in interrogations. In fact, many of the top brass who presided over Bagram have done more than escape punishment. Despite the many accounts of Captain Wood's encouragement of torture--Amnesty International has called her a "torture architect"--she has received two Bronze Stars.

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