White Phosphorus, Caged Lions, Peeling Skin


WASHINGTON, D.C.–Increasingly, the U.S. is facing charges
of war crimes in Iraq. In the most recent horrifying
accusations of prisoner torture, the U.S. is accused of
standing by while the  Iraqi occupation government
permitted the excruciating torture of prisoners in a
secret jail. These charges have been known since
April. Neither the Iraqis nor the Americans did
anything about them.
All this took place during a period where President Bush was
insisting the war was going well, and when Vice President Cheney was
lobbying behind the scenes to keep the CIA free to carry out
torture in secret prisons abroad.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni politician, is quoted by
the Boston Globe as saying the Interior Ministry
detention center has been infiltrated by Shiite
militia. “Some Iraqis are having their heads opened
with drills, then their bodies are thrown in the
streets,” he claimed. “This shows that the United
States should stop these acts since it is the force
that occupies Iraq.’’

In addition to the ongoing controversy over torture
of detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prison, the
newest instances include:

  • The apparent torture, including acts that left skin peeling from the
    body, of 173 mostly Sunni prisoners held in a secret
    prison by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government’s Interior
    Ministry jail, led to a formal investigation by the
    Iraqi government, and the prisoners rescue by U.S. soldiers. Charges of these tortures have been made known since April, but neither the U.S. nor its Iraqi-backed regime,
    have done anything about them.

  • The deliberate, confirmed use of chemical weapons in
    the form of white phosphorusagainst
    civilians in Falluja last year. An Italian documentary
    features eyewitnesses, including American military
    personnel who participated in them, to back up the
    charges. The Pentagon has admitted use of the weapons. The U.S. is not a signatory to a treaty banning their
  • An announced investigation by the army into charges
    U.S. forces put prisoners into cages with lions in
    2003. Charges have been brought by the American Civil
    Liberties Union and Human Rights First. Two Iraqi businessmen say they were taken to lion cages on the
    grounds of the presidential palace, forced to enter
    the cages, and were pulled back only as the lions
    approached. Rumsfeld called these accusations
  • Meanwhile Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reiterated the
    administration’s support for the Iraqi security
    forces—the same forces responsible for the cruel
    treatment of prisoners. “We must be careful not to
    give terrorists the false hope that if they can simply
    hold on long enough, that they can outlast us,’’ he said. And Rumsfeld
    went after Democrats and Republicans who are now
    criticizing the administration for misleading the
    country into war, claiming these same politicians
    stood behind Bush and the government on charging
    Saddam had weapons of mass destruction before the war

    “People who are willing to risk their lives [in the
    military] need to know the truth,” Rumsfeld said. “They
    need to understand that they are there based on
    decisions that were made in good faith by responsible

    The AP reported that Manfred Nowak, a special United Nations investigator on torture, renewed calls for an independent probe into the allegations:

    “That torture is still practiced in Iraq after Saddam Hussein, that is no secret,” Nowak said a telephone interview from Vienna, Austria. “It is shocking, but on the other hand, we have received allegations of these secret places in Iraq already for quite a long time.