Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Q&A: Reed Brody on the Road to Abu Ghraib

Q&A: Reed Brody on the Road to Abu Ghraib
There were reports of detainees being tortured and humiliated in U.S. custody abroad long before photographs from Abu Ghraib were published in late April 2004. But since those images provoked such “deep disgust” in President George Bush and the rest of the world, new revelations of rampant abuse have poured out. U.S. soldiers and intelligence agents, the evidence suggests, have routinely used pain and humiliation as interrogation techniques. This has included beatings, sexual degradation, the use of heat and cold, and near drowning. Detainees have died in custody under questionable circumstances.

Reed Brody, a veteran human rights defender and special counsel with Human Rights Watch, places the blame for these abuses squarely on the shoulders of the Bush administration.

You’ve written that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was not an isolated incident, despite the insistence of senior U.S. military and civilian officials that it was perpetrated by “a few bad apples.” On what grounds?
The only thing exceptional about what happened at Abu Ghraib was that it was caught on camera. When you consider the discussions people in Washington were having about employing torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or the specific authorization of illegal interrogation tactics for use in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, or when you consider the U.S. government’s failure to take any corrective action over the years following repeated reports of abuse, what happened at Abu Ghraib shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Do you believe it was officially sanctioned?
On what’s known so far, we can’t conclude that that arranging prisoners into human pyramids or attaching electrodes to their bodies was authorized, but once you say that inflicting pain and humiliation on detainees is a legitimate objective, it is not surprising that ordinary soldiers came to believe that even extreme forms of abuse were acceptable.

con·cept: Q&A: Reed Brody on the Road to Abu Ghraib