By Jon Christian Ryter
May 18, 2004
When CBS made a partisan political decision to show the photos of the sex abuse that took place in Abu Ghraib under the guise of "America's right to know," Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers knew it was a decision that was going to cost American lives. It was for that reason that Myers called CBS and asked them to delay broadcasting the sickening photos of the sexual abuse of Muslim detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. But what Myers, nor anyone else—including CBS and the New Yorker magazine that published the latest photo this week—realized is that the first recognized casualty of the publication of the sexually explicit photos would not be a soldier—he was a civilian.
The streaming video that was posted on an Islamic militant website on Tuesday depicted the very graphic decapitation of a 26-year old American civilian who made the fatal mistake of going to the most dangerous place on earth to find business opportunities.
The militants—five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks who claimed to be affiliated with al Qaeda, said the execution was to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company. The video depicted a man in an orange jumpsuit—like those worn by prisoners—who identified himself as Nicholas Berg, a U.S. telecommunications contractor. Berg vanished on April 10 shortly after checking out of his hotel room in Mosul. His headless body was found on a highway overpass in Baghdad on Saturday, May 8..
"My name is Nick Berg," the hostage began. "My father's name is Michael. My mother's name is Susan. I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah."
After Berg, who was warned by American officials not to go to Iraq before he left the United States, finished reading the prepared text, his captors forcibly rolled him over and jerked his head back, slitting his throat and methodically sawing off his head. They euphorically shouted ''Allahu Akbar! 'God is great" as they held up Berg's severed head to the camera. Berg's executioner, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, read the following statement: "For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the United States....to exchange this hostage with some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused...So we tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins ... slaughtered in this way."
It should be noted that Berg was not taken hostage to become the sacrificial lamb for the humiliating sex abuses that violated the religious precepts of Islam. Berg, who was supposed to return home to West Chester, Pennsylvania on March 30, turned up missing on March 24. He had been detained by Iraqi police at the Coalition Provisional Authority jail in Mosul who suspected he was an Israeli spy since his passport contained an Israeli stamp, suggesting he entered the country in a circuitous route through Kuwait, Egypt or Jordan that began in Israel. The Iraqi police—who have an inherent mistrust of Jews even under the best of circumstances—could see no other logical reason why a Jew would show up in a country torn by internal strife that has a millennium-old hatred of the Jews. After a couple days of interrogating Berg, the Iraqis appear to have notified the American authorities who then questioned Berg and interviewed Berg's family members and acquaintance in Pennsylvania to verify his story. Once the FBI investigation was completed, Berg was released. Background checks take anywhere from two weeks to a month or more to complete. In Berg's case, it appears to have taken close to two weeks. Berg's parents blame the US government for their son's death since he was planning to leave the country on March 30. And, had he not been detained by the Iraqi police, he would have been gone long before he came to the attention of Zarqawi.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—a trusted Jordanian lieutenant of Osama bin Laden—claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and decapitation of Berg. The CIA has identified him as the man behind the mask who performed the grisly deed. Nicholas Berg was taken as a pawn that Zarqawi could use in a hostage-detainee swap with the US military.
Berg became an Islamic militant "statement" only after the attempts to trade Berg for al Qaeda operatives being held at Abu Ghraib failed. Clearly, the abuses at Abu Ghraib—particularly if more photos of sexual abuses off Iraqi prisoners are printed in the media—will very likely lead to planned atrocities like the beheading of Nicholas Berg simply because the experience of the Muslim detainees in Abu Ghraib impacted the Islamic world by terrorizing the terrorists. In Islam, any Muslim male caught committing a homosexual act is executed. It is a crime against Allah—just as homosexuality, in Christianity and Judaism, is a crime against God. The recently viewed photos and videos by Congress and by the President apparently reveal actual instances—not simulated—where male Muslim detainees are forced to engage in homosexual acts with other male detainees.
After the Abu Ghraib photos were released—but before Nicholas Berg was violently beheaded—Sen. Kent Conrad [D-ND]. who lived for two years in the Muslim Mideast and graduated from high school in Tripoli, Libya, commented on the impact the Abu Ghraib photos might have on the Muslim world. "In their world," Conrad said, "there is nothing more profoundly humiliating than that, and humiliation breeds anger—and anger breeds terrorism. We have created a recruiting poster for al Qaeda that will plague us for years."
Conrad added that he lived for two years "...in the Arab culture among Muslims. I know if one were to try to design something that would completely and totally enrage people raised in that culture, one could not have designed a scenario worse than what happened. To have an American female in a prison where Iraqi men were naked, forced into homosexual positions, you could not design a circumstance that would more gravely enrage Muslim sensibilities than that."
Conrad's statement makes two things abundantly clear: the enlisted personnel who have or likely will, be charged with committing unspeakable acts of sexual abuse that have dulled our senses need to be charged, tried and convicted. Second, Conrad is convinced that the enlisted personnel did not originate the tortures they photographed themselves doing. Blame for the nature of the psychological abuse lies on the doorstep of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade and the civilian contractors who more clearly understood the nature of the Muslim mind and how those specific abuses would affect them. The enlisted personnel facing charges include Corporal Charles A. Graner, Jr., Spc. Megan M. Ambuhl, Spc. Sabrina Harman, Pfc. Lynndie England and the 372nd Company commander, Capt. Donald J. Reese. Spc. Jeremy Sivits pleaded guilty in a plea agreement in which he will testify against the others. Thus far ordered to stand a general court martial are the two sergeants from Cellblock 1-A: S/Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II of Buckingham, Virginia and Sgt. Javal Davis of western Maryland.
In guarded interviews (with their lawyers present) both Pfc. England and Spc. Harman—who, like their general officer, Janis Karpinski, are running the gauntlet of radio and TV talk shows—claim they were specifically ordered to pose in the photos that captured them abusing naked male Iraqi prisoners although neither of them appear to know the names of those who ordered them to participate.
In an interview on Tuesday, May 11, England said that not only were the guards from the 372nd Military Police Company verbally instructed what to do to the detainees, they were critiqued by the intelligence people who examined the photographs they were taking. Suggestions were theoretically made what the MPs could do to make the photos even more shocking. England implied, without naming them, that her superiors used the photos to terrorize the Muslim detainees they were questioning who had not yet experienced the horrors of Cellblock 1-A or 1-B, and had not yet become Pfc. Lyndie England's personnel sex-toy-on-a-leash.
In her interview with KCNC-TV in Denver (taped at Fort Bragg), England said she received very specific instructions from her superiors how to pose for her photo ops. When asked specifically who ordered her, England replied, "Persons in my chain of command." Like Harman, she could not name anyone. "Superiors" in that context could, of course, mean anyone higher than a private first class and not necessarily an officer in the Military Police, military intelligence or civilian in either the DIA or CIA..
There is no doubt that England and Harmon are telling the truth—at least as much of the truth as they know. They were unofficially ordered to participate in the abuse of detainees to soften them up for much needed questioning that could, and would save American lives if successful. "The person who brought [the prisoners to them]," Harman said in a retrieved email from a 372nd Military Police Company computer, "would set the standards on whether or not to be nice. If the prisoner was cooperating, then the prisoner was allowed to his jumpsuit, mattress, and was allowed cigarettes on request, or even hot food. But if the prisoner didn't give it was all taken away until [military intelligence] decided. Sleep, food, clothes, mattresses, cigarettes, were all privileges and were granted with information received."
But, that does not excuse the enlisted personnel who doled out the abuses and photographed themselves doing it. Their actions condemn them. It is not likely the six took the photographs to show their families back home the "humdrum nature" of their jobs guarding prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Somehow, I can't imagine that those are the types of photos you would want to send home to Mom and Dad. The photos were designed specifically to intimidate and terrorize other detainees. In my opinion, that logically ties the Intel crowd to the MP guards and lends a considerable amount of credence to the stories being told by England and Harmon.
However, surmising something and proving it are two different things. Courts—even military courts that are more lax on the rules of evidence than civilian courts—deal with facts not suppositions. But, even if the seven 372nnd guards thus far charged were tricked into believing they were obeying lawful commands, it still doesn't excuse their complicity. It does, however mitigate it. And, their statements provided a plausible bridge for investigators to move from the 372nd Military Police Company to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade—a bridge Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba traveled several times during his investigation.
Taguba concluded there was a complete breakdown of military leadership from the top down at Abu Ghraib—meaning all the way from Abu Ghraib's absentee landlord, Brigadier Gen. Janis Karpinsky to Lt. Col. Jerry Phillabaum who was effectively her eyes, ears and mouth on the ground at the prison. It is because of this breakdown that the military chain of command at Abu Ghraib became obscured and the enlisted personnel were enveloped in an olive drab command shroud that not only permitted, but encouraged, the abuses that took place. Taguba argued that very point when he said "...I think it was a matter of soldiers with their interaction with military intelligence personnel, who they perceived or thought to be competent authority, that were...influencing their action to set the conditions for successful interrogations..."
Senator Susan Collins [R-ME] said she couldn't "...help but suspect that others were involved—that military intelligence personnel were invollved..." The "evidence" that seems to overwhelmingly confirm that to Collins wasn't found in Taguba's transcripts, but because the British army was engaged in precisely the same type of treatment of their prisoners. And, in both the United States and England, some of the abuse photos printed by the media—in the Boston Globe in the United States and in the Daily Mirror in London—were fakes. The Boston Globe printed staged photographs from a pornographic website depicting American soldiers raping what was purported to be Iraqi women. The Daily Mirror printed photos of what was purported to be a British soldier from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment beating an Iraqi prisoner. And even though the photos printed by both newspapers were later proven to be fakes, all of those photos were publicized in the Arab media as factual—and all of them have now been enshrined as fact throughout the Muslim world.
It is more than a strange coincidence that seven undertrained US National Guard enlisted people—with absolutely no prior knowledge of psychological torture, or knowledge of the customs and idiosyncrasies of Islam—could or would devise a method of "softening" up hardened militants or suspected terrorists (as those Iraqis confined to Cellblocks 1-A and 1-B were classified) that was uncannily identical to the methods used by their British counterparts in southern Iraq. Clearly, even though Spc. Jeremy Sivits told the convening authority that the abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib originated within the cellblock, seven part-time soldiers didn't dream up the sex abuses. Someone a lot higher up the military food chain who was working closely with both the American and British military intelligence very likely dreamed up that form of psychological torture knowing that, in the Islamic world, engaging in a homosexual act is a crime punishable by death.
There is a simple truth here that has been acknowledged repeatedly in the media for the past two weeks. What the seven members of the 372nd did in Cellblocks 1-A and 1-B at Abu Ghraib violates not only the laws of man but the laws of God as well. And, while the information the military intelligence people were trying to extract from these militants was crucial to the ultimate success of the US military's objectives in Iraq, it violated the Geneva Convention and it violates the sensibilities of the American people.
However, to put it rather bluntly, as long as our enemies violate the Geneva Convention with respect to how they handle both military prisoners-of-war and civilian captives and/or hostages, I'm not in the least bit concerned that the American and British military intelligence people might be violating the Geneva Convention in order to get the intel they need that will save American and Coalition lives. It is hypocritical of the antiwar, anti-American liberal crowd in Tinseltown and in the nation's capitol, to accuse American of war crimes while Muslim terrorists execute innocent civilians whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I absolutely abhor the form of psychological terrorism the military intelligence people have chosen to use. It not only violates the precepts of man, it violates the laws of God. One wonders why the military intelligence people chose a form of psychological torture that was certain to offend the moral sensibilities of the American people when news of what they were doing leaked out—as it was certain to, eventually. Particularly since there was a much more effective method—like the one used by General John "Blackjack" Pershing in the Philippines in 1910 when Islamic militants attempted to overthrow that island nation's government to establish an Islamic theocracy in the South Pacific.
Pershing's soldiers captured 25 Muslim militants who were waging a terrorist war against the native population. Pershing ordered the execution of 24 of them. As two dozen Muslim terrorists dug their own graves, Pershing's soldiers slaughtered 24 pigs and drained their blood into a large tub. As the 25th terrorist watched, 24 bullets were dipped in pig's blood and placed in the chambers of 24 rifles. When the terrorists finishing digging their own graves, a firing squad executed them—with the pig-bloodstained bullets. As the bodies lay in the open graves, Pershing ordered the pigs' bellies slit open. Pig entrails and the carcasses of the pigs were dumped on the corpses. Pig blood was poured on the dead faces. The 25th terrorist was forced to close each grave—sealing for all eternity the fate of his friends. He was then released, unharmed, with a message for his Islamic compatriots. Any Muslim terrorist caught in the future would suffer the same fate. Terrorist activity in the Philippines ceased for over half a century.
The Koran (Qu'ran) forbids Muslims to consume pig meat or to allow that animal to defile their bodies. Muslim are taught if they defile themselves with pork they will be forbidden from entering Heaven. In the mind of the 25th terrorist who watched his fellow militants defiled by the pigs with which they were buried, none of them would ever see Heaven. There is no worse fate for a Muslim believer.
(I am not suggesting that the military randomly execute Muslim militants in Cellblocks 1-A and 1-B with pig-bloodstained bullets in order to force other militants to cooperate with authorities—even though forcing detainees to watch the rubber bullets used to put down riots get pigblood baths before being loaded into the weapons of the MPs guarding their compounds would likely discourage riots. That would fly in the face of the American code of conduct—the fact that it probably violates the Geneva Convention notwithstanding. What I am suggesting is that Porky Pig could become the military's best interrogation devise—or, at least, his blood could.) At the preliminary stage of interrogation, the detainee could be given a literal blood bath—in pig's blood in which the detainee is forced too watch a pig slaughtered and its blood drained into a bath tub. As the detainee is forced to bath in pig's blood, he is told if he does not cooperate, he will be purged with pig's blood—inside and out. If he refuses to talk, he would then be taken to what appears to be an operating room. In the center of the room, on one of two gurney's would be a sedated pig with all of the appropriate tubes protruding from its arteries. As the detainee is strapped down on the other gurney, he is told that if he does not give up the information the intelligence people want, he will be given a blood transfusion—from the pig. If the prisoner refuses, he is sedated and what appears to be a transfusion is videotaped for the next detainee's viewing pleasure. To make it appear to the detainee that he actually was transfused with pig's blood, medication designed to make, and keep the detainee nauseated for several hours, is administered while he is sedated. That way, with each new "transfusion," the compatriots of the detainee will be convinced that the detainee had been permanently defiled with pig's blood.
The detainees would talk—much more eagerly. And, where the American people were outraged about the abuses at Abu Ghraib where enemy detainees were forced to masturbate in front of women, or to physically engage in homosexual acts with one another, they would be silently amused that Porky Pig had became an effective weapon in America's War on Terrorism.
While the abuses heaped upon the detainees in Cellblock 1-A and 1-B of Abu Ghraib (and very likely the other prisons within the Iraqi penal system under the control of the 800th MP Brigade) were offensive to America's Christian morality, it is very important to remember that those confined to Cellblocks 1-A and 1-B were the worst of the worst—any one of which would have gladly beheaded Nicholas Berg or any other American in order to strike a blow against the infidels of the West.
The televised execution of Nicholas Berg is a stark reminder to the American people why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Zell Miller [D-GA] commented in an interview last Thursday that the decapitation of Nicholas Berg should serve as a wake-up call to all of us why the War on Terrorism needs to replace the Iraqi abuse scandal and the partisan political cries for Rumsfeld's resignation on the front pages of the nation's newspapers and on the 6 o'clock news. "Those who are wringing their hands and shouting so loudly for heads to roll over [the abuse scandal] have conveniently overlooked the fact that someone's head has rolled—that of another innocent American brutally murdered by terrorists," Miller said. "Why is it that there is more indignation over a photo of a prisoner with underwear on his head than over the video of a young American with no head at all?"
Liberal Republican Sen. Arlen Specter summed it up best. "We [have lost] the intensity [of the feeling] for 9-11 as time passes...I think the beheading of Nick Berg is a very stark reminder." He added that the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners should not "...be condoned in the slightest [but must] be kept in proportion to what we are dealing with on terrorism."
The media has hammered us with images of Abu Ghraib for the past couple of weeks because they want us to believe that is what the war in Iraq—or rather, the War on Terrorism—is actually about. It is not. War is Hell. So is trying to win the peace when thousands of insurgents from Syria, Iran, and even our allies: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and Jordan flood through the porous borders of Iraq to aid the insurgents from Saddam's Fedayeen and the remnants of the Sunni Republican Guards.
The prison abuse scandal, shocking as it was to America's moral senses, was grossly over-emphasized by the Democrats and by the liberal media. The sole purpose of keeping the scandal on the front pages of America's newspapers is to inflict as much political damage on George W. Bush as possible. The fact that it damaged America's ability to work diplomatically with its Arab allies was seen, by Senate Democrats like Teddy Kennedy as an unexpected bonus. On the floor of the US Senate on Monday, May 10, Kennedy said: "Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management—the US [military]. "Kennedy added that the prison abuse scandal represents a "...disaster policy by the administration in terms of leadership, in terms of control, in terms of command...We have gone from the most respected nation in the world in terms of human rights...[to the] most hated nation in the world as a result of this disastrous policy in the prisons."
Kennedy—who does not face the electorate until 2006—has agreed to be John Kerry's soldier in the trenches to attack Bush's patriotism and to compare the War in Iraq with the Vietnam War. In recent campaign speeches, Democratic presumptive presidential nominee John F. Kerry told audiences that the sex abuse scandal was the most defining event of the Bush presidency, and that it implicates not only privates, corporals and sergeants, but reaches much higher—all the way to the White House. The abuse scandal was so repulsive that even Senate Republicans like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner and South Carolina conservative Senator Lindsay Graham criticized the Bush Administration during the Senate Armed Services Committee interrogation of Rumsfeld and Myers. Even Nicholas Berg's parents, Michael and Susan Berg, blame President Bush for the death of their son. The simple truth is that Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi executed their son—not Bush. And, Berg was decapitated not because of the abuses at Abu Ghraib but because he was a Jew captured by Muslim terrorists in the most dangerous place in the world for a Jew to be captured by Muslim militants. Zarqawi's action, like the terrorist acts that have been perpetuated against Iraeli Jews by various Islamic organizations since 1948, is no different than the terrorist attacks perpetuated in the name of a miscreant's Holy War against the American people on September 11, 2001.
While the terrorists under Zarqawi wanted to paint Berg's assassination as the natural backlash one might expect after viewing the photographs both real and staged—of the atrocities committed on the Muslim male and female detainees at Abu Ghraib, in point of fact, Zarqawi merely "seized the opportunity" because he was stuck with a hostage he couldn't use to his advantage any other way. Because Berg was a Jew—particularly an American Jew—Zarqawi wi had no intention of releasing him alive. There is little doubt that Zarqawi intended, all along, to kill Berg if attempts to swap him for key al Qaeda assets in American custody failed. The Abu Ghraib scandal allowed him to justify his deed in Koranic terms. But, whether Abu Ghraib happened or not, it is not likely that Nicholas Berg—once captured by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—would ev ever leave Iraq alive.
© 2004 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with
the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com
has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders
who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his
books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.
"Conrad's statement makes two things abundantly clear: the enlisted personnel who have or likely will, be charged with committing unspeakable acts of sexual abuse that have dulled our senses need to be charged, tried and convicted."