TRIGGER WARNING: WAR AND VIOLENCE, TORTURE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE
When you think of freedom, what comes to mind?
Is it the classic American interpretation, with bald eagles and red stripes and stars? Perhaps you think of the Declaration of Independence or Bill of Rights, maybe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? The United States of America has monopolized the notion of what it means to be a democracy, the concept of freedom itself, and has positioned itself as a protector of human rights.
Now, for a thought experiment. Does the following conform to your idea of the Western world’s commitment to human rights and human dignity?
“Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance biting a detainee.”
The previous is a description of the torture U.S military soldiers inflicted upon prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which clearly amounts to torture and deprivation of bodily integrity. Yes, soldiers from the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, gladly tortured defenseless prisoners, many of whom were low-level criminals.
Now, for another thought experiment. Do you think the military would do the following to the people they had sworn to protect?
“Brutality against protected persons upon capture and initial custody, causing death or serious injury; Absence of notification of arrest of persons deprived of their liberty to their families causing distress among persons deprived of their liberties and their families; Physical or psychological coercion during interrogation to secure information; Prolonged solitary confinement in cells devoid of daylight; Excessive and inappropriate use of force against persons deprived of their liberty resulting in death or injury during their period of internment.”
The aforementioned is a description of the war crimes found by the International Committee of the Red Cross that found the United States military guilty of at Abu Ghraib. The United States has this god-like status, where it’s able to create its own rules, but is not bound by them. The U.S. Invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the consequent torture at Abu Ghraib is a primary example of American exceptionalism in the context of war crimes. The horrors of Abu Ghraib would be kept silent by the international community until the release of the infamous image known as “The Hooded Man.”
The Hooded Man sent shock waves throughout the international community, amassing a tremendous amount of attention to U.S. conduct in Iraq. The common question seemed to be “why is the U.S military violating the rights and freedoms of the people they were so adamant on bringing freedom and democracy to?” Taken by Sergeant Ivan Frederick who participated in the war crimes, the Hooded Man was one of the less explicit images from the prison of torture.
Under Saddam Hussein’s control of Iraq, Abu Ghraib was one of the world’s worst prisons. U.S soldiers turned this existing site of restriction into a symbol of American terror. Thousands of prisoners were crammed into tiny cells, being deprived of their basic rights as prisoners and people. U.S soldiers flaunted their blatant violations of the laws of war by taking pictures of them in the act of torturing prisoners. These include images of dogs attacking prisoners and bodies stacked on top of each other with soldiers smiling beside them.
There is no reasonable justification for threatening detainees with rape or sodomizing prisoners, so why did certain U.S soldiers feel like they had the right to? Why are the actions of these soldiers just a “few bad apples” that don’t “represent their values,” but the entire Middle East, especially Iraq, painted as a cesspool of extremism and anti-peace and human rights?
It is paramount to understand that no nation is exceptional, or above the rule of law, no matter what the mainstream media tells you.