Year after year in gloom and desolate despair;
A messenger of Hope comes every night to me,
And offers for short life, eternal liberty. -- Brontë, 'The Prisoner'
When Iraq's newly appointed prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, made the decision to order the release of more than 2500 prisoners from U.S.- and Iraqi-run prisons this week, he must have been worrying over the possibility of the U.S. bugging out next year, as he has predicted, which could leave his government with responsibility for an estimated 28,000+ detainees languishing indefinitely without any benefit of any amnesty which usually follows an armistice.
Despite the apparent killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an alleged orchestrator of violence in Iraq, the prospect for Iraq's foreseeable future is one of continued conflict, and armed, bloody resistance to the new authority. No matter what victory speech Bush contrives for our troops' inevitable staged exit, the chaotic Iraq he leaves behind won't resemble any rhetoric from him about 'defeating terrorism' or 'ending the insurgency'.
With more 'anti-insurgency' raids forecast by Maliki for the near future, backed-up by an escalation of the U.S. forces by as many as 5500 more soldiers transferred in from Kuwait and Germany, there will be an almost certain increase in the numbers of those captured and held. Releasing just 2500, out of over 28,000 detained shouldn't provide any relief to the prison population at all. It just clears space for more.
The majority of these prisoners - many initially captured by the Iraqis and turned over to the U.S. - have reportedly been held without charges or counsel for a year or more. Media accounts and interviews have revealed several cases of mal-nourishment and ill-health among those released. Although some say they were well-treated at the hands of their foreign captors, many Iraqi detainees have made accusations of torture and harassment, which mirror the past abuses at Abu Ghraib, and mesh with the Pentagon's deliberate omission from the Army training manual of a Geneva Convention ban on "humiliating and degrading treatment".
Rumsfeld's Nov. 27, 2002, memo approved several methods which would violate Geneva Convention rules, including:
-Putting detainees in "stress positions," such as standing, for up to four hours.
-Removing prisoners' clothes.
-Intimidating detainees with dogs.
-Interrogating prisoners for 20 hours straight.
-Forcing prisoners to wear hoods during interrogations and transport.
-Shaving prisoner's heads and beards.
-Using "mild, non-injurious physical contact," such as poking.
According to a Red Cross report in 2004 quoting coalition intelligence officers, up to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees were arrested "by mistake."
The report, confirming that Rumsfeld's directives had trickled down to the troops, cited abuses at the hands of their U.S. captors of brutality, hooding, humiliation, and threats of "imminent execution."
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