....LMB: "Torture"....

May 03, 2004

So last week, the photos hit, of American soldiers humiliating and near-torturing Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison. Government officials tell us that these are just a few bad apples, and that the guards don't usually treat the prisoners this way.

Then photos and stories come out about British soldiers doing the same or worse.

Then, Amnesty International puts out a (rather vague) press release claiming that they have "received frequent reports of torture or other ill-treatment by Coalition Forces during the past year."

Then, we read allegations that British soldiers have been swapping hundreds of such photos of Iraqis being abused, for the soldiers' own amusement.

Then, most daming of all, reporter Seymour Hersh weighs in with an article mostly based upon the US Army's internal investigation about abuse in Iraqi prisons.

And finally, to personalize it all, we read first-hand accounts of the prisoners' treatment (well, alleged accounts).

So we've got a number of issues here.

First, some of those initial pictures document how the prisoners are being treated, but some are just sick souvenir photos that the fucked-up guards can show to their friends back home.

Second, Hersh's article tells us that this abuse started no later than October 2003, that there were many "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses", and included some of the following:

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 broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

(although honestly, I have to wonder how much better or worse these Iraqi prisoners have been treated than American inmates in American jails)

Third, Hersh's article, and several others, allege that the guards (Military Police AKA MPs) were ordered to abuse the prisoners by members of military intelligence (MI). MI wanted the MPs to "soften up" the prisoners-- break their spirits-- so that it would be easier for MI to interrogate them.

As there is not much of a court system in Iraq right now, how many of these detainees are innocent? How many are guilty, but don't deserve to be beaten or electrocuted?

Another disturbing possiblity comes from this line this article:

"A month before the alleged abuses occurred, [Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski ] said, a team of military intelligence officers from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, came to Abu Ghraib last year. 'Their main and specific mission was to get the interrogators -- give them new techniques to get more information from detainees,' she said."

Did MI from Guantanamo go teach the Abu Ghraib guards a few tricks? If so, are the detainees in Guantanamo being abused and tortured the same way that the Iraqi prisoners are? Is this common wherever the US holds foreigners in bondage?

And on top of that, many of the articles idly mention that "civilian contractors" AKA "mercenaries" are working with MI. Mercs are unaccountable to anyone except the guy signing their paychecks.

What's bizarre about some of this is that torture is not a very reliable way of extracting information. Under threat of pain, how long till you start saying whatever you think your torturer wants you to hear? When the guard's about to shove a broom handle up your ass again, do you continue to pretend innocence, tell the guard the truth that he might not believe, or lie and say that you have Osama bin Laden's cell number?

Obviously, this is bad stuff. Apart from the obvious moral and human suffering issues, the Arab and Muslim world see these photos fall neatly into their perception that the US is an uncaring occupying power that wants to destroy Islam and all Arabs. And these perceptions just increase the chances that some angry Mideast resident is going to try to blow up the asses of innocent folks like you and me.

Posted by Jake at 12:23 AM | TrackBack (0)
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Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.

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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply donít know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

Posted by Jake at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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