Next month's American Prospect (online now) contains a chilling article "Unusual Suspects" about women prisoners at Abu Ghraib and their experiences there: experiences for which Alberto Gonzales must answer.
More below the fold.
Among the 42 women, the author (Tara McKelvey) speaks to several: Selwa, a 55-year-old wife of a former director in the Ministry of Commerce; Victoria, a 54-year-old former bank director; Mithal, a 55-year-old supervisor at an electrical company, neighbor of a retired government worker--the focus of investigation; and Khadefa, a 51-year-old former school principal, and sister of a high-ranking official in the Hussein government.
Mithal describes her experience:
"After that, they took me to [a detention center near Baghdad International Airport]. There, I heard a young woman crying out from her cell, telling an American soldier to leave her alone. She said, 'I am a Muslim woman.' Her voice was high-pitched and shaky. Her husband, who was in a cell down the hall, called out, 'She is my wife. She has nothing to do with this.' He hit the bars of his cell with his fists until he fainted. The Americans poured water over his face and made him wake up. When her screams became louder, the soldiers played music over the speakers. Finally, they took her to another room. I couldn't hear anything more."
Afterward, Mithal says, she was taken to Abu Ghraib. "They stripped me and searched me," she remembers. "Then they gave me blankets and put me in solitary conﬁnement in a room 2 meters by 1 and a half meters. There was no light in the room. I was there for three months."
Some of the people interviewed for this article are plaintiffs in a pair of class-action lawsuits brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights against Titan Corporation and CACI International, private companies who hired translators and interrogators at Abu Ghraib. The suit is relying on the Alien Tort Claims and RICO, and "asserts that the abuses allegedly committed by employees constitute a pattern of racketeering activity. In February or March, a California federal court judge will decide whether or not he will hear the case. The contractors were, of course, 'under the operational control and direction of the U.S. military,' according to a July 29 statement by CACI (pronounced 'khaki'). A classified report by U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Albert Church on interrogation techniques has reportedly been completed and is supposed to be released in the next few weeks." Unfortunately, the report will probably come too late to provide the ammunition we need against Gonzales.
None of the women interviewed would discuss whether they were raped. The stigma against women who've been raped is severe, often resulting in death--so-called honor killings. Given this environment, few women are willing to come forward to admit they are victims of sexual assault. That it has happened seems inevitable. There are some official reports of sexual abuse of a female prisoners in military documents.
And an image shown to members of Congress on May 12, 2004, seems to depict a female detainee exposing her breasts, apparently against her will, according to a high-level Senate staffer. "She just looked like she'd died inside," the staffer says.
Male prisoners have described the abuse of women as well. Saleh, a car broker who was held in Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003 described what he saw to one of the attorneys at the Center:
According to Senate sources for the article, the Pentagon is "stonewalling" senators when they ask about sexual abuse of women at Abu Ghraib. One staffer told the author. "Most, if not all, of the female detainees have never been questioned about whether or not they were sexually assaulted or raped at Abu Ghraib. . . . Therefore, as the [Defense Department] spins it, no allegations 'surfaced' so no corrective measures are needed."
Alberto Gonzales has a great deal to answer for. I suggest that we forward this article to the Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee prior to the resumption of the Gonzales' confirmation hearings on Wednesday.
Update [2005-1-23 21:56:22 by mcjoan]: JenAtlanta reports two bad addresses from the link I provided for the Judiciary Committee. Reach Sen. Kohl at this link and Sen. Durbin here.