Entry for October 24, 2005: ACLU Torture Report

2004 Cartoon by Tom Toles in Washington Post

At the September 24 Washington D.C. mobilization against the war in Iraq, some protesters help up signs reading,” Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam. Disputed origins, a fierce resistance, and repugnant abuses by US troops all recall the trauma of that quagmire.


A month later, on October 24, the .American Civil Liberties Union  released its analysis of autopsy and death reports of detainees held in U.S. facilities  in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom died while being interrogated. The documents show that detainees were hooded, gagged, strangled, beaten with blunt objects, subjected to sleep deprivation and to hot and cold environmental conditions. Not only CIA personnel, but those from the Navy Seals and military intelligence were involved.


According to the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, “There is no question thatU.S.interrogations have resulted in deaths. High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable. America must stop putting its head in the sand and deal with the torture scandal that has rocked our military.”


As I noted in an earlier entryMilliarium Zero is re-releasing a 95 minute documentary, Winter Soldier , about the Vietnam Veterans Against the War’s Winter Soldier Investigation. The Virginia premiere October30 at the Virginia Film Festival will be followed by screenings at E Street Cinema in Washington D.C. December 9 – 15.


At the Winter Soldier Investigation, returning veterans of from all branches of the military offered eyewitness testimony to the atrocities for three days in Detroit in February 1971, one month after the revelations of the My Lai massacre. 


Many writers and camera crews attended, but major news organizations chose not to report the evidence presented. Winter Soldier, filmed and edited by Winterfilm Collective, eighteen independent New York-based filmmakers, became the only audio-visual record. National broadcaster refused to show the film. After screenings in Manhattanat Cinema 2 and the Whitney Museum, and an airing on New York’s PBS affiliate, Winter Soldier and its testimony were effectively buried.


More than a year ago, retired army Lieutenant General William E. Odom, now an adjunct professor of Political Science at Yale spoke about Iraq to The Guardian saying, “This is far graver than Vietnam…though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims.”


In 2002, the majority of American voters and their proxies in the Congress seemed to forget the lessons of a mindless, destructive war. Now, In These Times reviewer Michael Atkinson says, “in an ideal and informed democracy, a Winter Soldier screening would be a voter registration requirement.”





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