EPIC Update - 5/17/04
In This Issue:


Rumsfeld Authorized Abuse


Bush's Stance on Geneva Conventions led to Torture


Head of Governing Council Killed; Bush Asks for $25 Billion


EPIC Condemns Murder of U.S. Captive


Mosques Hit in Najaf and Karbala


Red Cross Reports Up to 90% Arrested by Mistake


Iraqi Women Raped, Abused by U.S. soldiers


TAKE ACTION: Investigate Rumsfeld

Featured Links:


Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past (National Security Archive)


Surveys: Iraqis increasingly want democracy, but have much to learn about the details (Boston Globe 5/14/04)


For some Iraqis, jobs more pressing than politics (USA Today 5/17/04)


The Democracy Option (Washington Post 5/17/04)
Rumsfeld Authorized Abuse

Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker reports that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized a secret program that allowed interrogation practices that may have led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.

According to Hersh’s sources in the intelligence community, this included treating the prisoners harshly and subjecting them to sexual humiliation. And the use of photographs may have been for blackmailing prisoners into cooperating as informants.

The Pentagon calls the story "outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture." Lawmakers say they will pursue the growing scandal as high as it goes. EPIC demands a full investigation mandated by Congress.

Read the full investigative report by Seymour Hersh:


Bush's Stance on Geneva Conventions led to Torture

According to a NEWSWEEK investigative report, President Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to the use of methods that contravene international law and violate a 1996 U.S. law that bars "any grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions.

White House counsel Alberto Gonzales wrote a January 2002 decision memorandum for President Bush establishing the administration’s “no Geneva convention” application. In the memo, he describes the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” and “obsolete.”

Secretary of State Powell strongly objected to the Gonzales memo, warning that the proposed anti-Geneva Convention declaration "will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice" and would have "a high cost in terms of negative international reaction."

This led the White House to partially back down, announcing on February 7, 2002 that the United States would indeed apply the Geneva Conventions to the Afghan war—but that Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners were “unlawful” combatants without rights and therefore not afforded prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions.

Now there is evidence that these loose rules were extended to prisoners in Iraq, creating the conditions that allowed gross human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Read “The Roots of Torture” a NEWSWEEK investigation by John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff:


Head of Governing Council Killed; Bush Asks for $25 Billion

The current president of the Iraqi Governing Council was killed today by a suicide car bomber in Baghdad. Abdel-Zahraa Othman, also known as Izzadine Saleem, was the second and highest-ranking member of the U.S.-appointed council to be assassinated. Saleem was a Shiite and a leader of the Islamic Dawa Movement in the southern city of Basra. Aquila al-Hashimi, another Shiite and one of three women on the 25-member body, was mortally wounded in September. Nine other Iraqis, including the bomber were killed in today’s blast (AP 5/17/04).

The assassination is the latest blow to the planned June 30th "transfer of power." The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, told a Senate panel on Wednesday that he expected an increase in violence between now and the handover of sovereignty (NY Times 5/13/04).

On the transfer of authority, Mr. Rumsfeld told Senators: "Will it happen right on time? I think so. I hope so. Will it be perfect? No ... Is it possible it won't work? Yes" (NY Times 5/13/04).

The Bush administration’s $25 billion funding request for war and nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan will push next year’s total beyond $50 billion, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress on Thursday (AP 5/13/04). Unfair awarding of contracts, overbidding, corruption and careless spending have plagued the Pentagon’s management of funds thus far.

According to the Iraq Revenue Watch, any new UN Security Council resolution should assert the right of the Iraqi people to manage their own natural resources throughout the duration of the Iraqi Transitional Authority. It must also transfer control of the Development Fund for Iraq from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the interim government.

Read more: Bush Supporters are Split on Iraq Plan


EPIC Condemns Murder of U.S. Captive

On Friday, 450 friends and family gathered to eulogize 26-year-old Nicholas Berg of Philadelphia, a unique and enterprising communications entrepreneur. According to his father, Michael, he had traveled to Iraq to “help build, rather than destroy.” Earlier this month, he was brutally decapitated by extremists.

EPIC condemns the killing of Nicholas Berg, who was a friend of Iraq. EPIC does not believe the individual filmed as carrying out the execution was Iraqi, given the man’s accent and actions. Intelligence officials say the beheading was most likely carried out by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to Al Qaeda.

Scholars from Al-Azhar, the world's highest Sunni religious authority, have unequivocally condemned the killing, saying that Islam stands against such acts. Militant groups like Hizbollah have also denounced the execution. According to the Qur’an, followers are to “treat the prisoners of war kindly.” Such teachings form the foundation and inspiration of the Geneva Conventions.

For more about What Islam Says About Prisoners, go to:


Mosques Hit in Najaf and Karbala

Fighting in the holy city of Karbala continued over the weekend prompting Shiite religious authorities to formally close the shrines of Imam Husain and his half-brother Abu'l-Fadl Abbas to pilgrims - a rare procedure that has not been implemented for decades (juancole.com). Last week on Wednesday, U.S. tanks, helicopters and jets attacked fighters in Karbala, partially destroying the historic Mukhayyam Mosque and setting seven hotels ablaze. Twenty-two militants were killed (AP 5/12/04).

In Najaf on Friday the golden dome of the Shrine of Imam Ali, one of the most sacred sites for Shiite Muslims, was hit by what appeared to be machine gun fire, resulting in four holes, each about 12 inches by 8 inches (MSNBC 5/14/04). The damage occurred as American tanks backed by helicopters entered into the center of the holy city and shelled militia positions (MSNBC 5/14/04). At least seven U.S. tanks thrust deep into the cemetery which surrounds the city. The cemetery, considered the largest in the world, is where several million Shiites, including prominent historical and religious leaders, are buried.

The conflicts in the holy cities of Najaf, Karbala and Kufa between U.S. soldiers and militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been going on for several weeks. An aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric, had urged U.S. forces and al-Sadr fighters to leave Najaf (MSNBC 5/14/04).

For up to date news and analysis, go to:


Red Cross Reports Up to 90% Arrested by Mistake

The Wall Street Journal published a confidential 24-page Red Cross report that describes a pattern of excessive force used by U.S. soldiers. The Red Cross wrote that "ill-treatment during capture was frequent" and that it often included "pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles." Those tactics, which "seemed to reflect a usual modus operandi," the Red Cross report says, “appeared to go beyond the reasonable, legitimate and proportional use of force required to apprehend suspects or restrain persons resisting arrest or capture." (Washington Post 5/11/04)

In addition, the report noted that some military intelligence officers estimated that 70 percent to 90 percent of "the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake." Of the 43,000 Iraqis who have been imprisoned at some point during the occupation, only about 600 have been referred to Iraqi authorities for prosecution, according to U.S. officials (Washington Post 5/11/04).

The Red Cross study concludes that the arrest and detention practices employed by U.S.-led forces in Iraq "are prohibited under International Humanitarian Law." "We were dealing here with a broad pattern, not individual acts. There was a pattern and a system," according to ICRC director of operations, Pierre Kraehenbueh (BBC 5/8/04).

Click here for the full report (large PDF file)


Iraqi Women Raped, Abused by U.S. soldiers

Although the focus of the prison abuse has rested mainly on Iraqi men who make up the majority of U.S. detainees in Iraq, there is evidence that women have been raped, humiliated and sexually assaulted while held by U.S. forces in Iraq. According to the New Yorker magazine the photos and videos so far unreleased by the Pentagon show American soldiers "having sex with a female Iraqi prisoner", and a secret report by General Antonio Taguba into the scandal confirms that US guards videotaped and photographed naked female prisoners and that "a male MP [military police] guard" is shown "having sex with a female detainee". Other allegations being investigated are that a 12- or 13-year-old girl had been stripped naked in the block and paraded in front of male inmates (Guardian 5/12/04).

Rape, a crime against any woman, holds particular danger in Islamic culture where the victim faces denial, ostracism or even death. Honor killings, where women are murdered in an attempt to erase the stain of her rape from the family’s honor, are not uncommon.

Read more: A Double Ordeal for Female Prisoners from the LA Times


TAKE ACTION: Investigate Rumsfeld

During his visit to the Pentagon to view more photographs of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners last Monday, President Bush praised Mr. Rumsfeld for doing “a superb job” and said the U.S. owed him "a debt of gratitude." The President’s remarks were greeted by shock and anger throughout the Arab and Muslim world (Reuters 5/10/04).

That same day, the Senate passed a forceful resolution condemning the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, recommending strong oversight by Senate committees, and urging a full and complete investigation to ensure justice is served. The Senate also apologized “for the humiliation suffered by the prisoners in Iraq and their families.”

The House of Representatives, on the other hand, passed a scandalously weak resolution on May 6 deploring the “alleged” crimes of “a handful of individuals.” The resolution (H.Res.627) failed to offer an apology, mention international law, or provide for immediate, strong Congressional oversight.


The editors of the Army Times write, “This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential - even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war” (5/10/04).

Rumsfeld himself has stated before Congress that “if I felt I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute” (AP 5/7/04). That may indeed be required. Conservative commentator George Will writes: "The response by the nation's government must express horror, shame and contrition proportional to the evil done to others, and the harm done to the nation, by agents of the government (Washington Post 5/11/04)."

EPIC strongly agrees. The President and Congress must take action proportionate to the evil done at Abu Ghraib and the damage done to America’s standing in the world. Call your Members of Congress via the Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121 or 224-3121.


1. LAUNCH a FULL and PUBLIC INVESTIGATION into ALL ALLEGATIONS of ABUSE and TORTURE. Tell your Members of Congress that you expect far better congressional oversight, including a congressionally-mandated investigation. All those responsible for the policies, judgments, actions, and inaction that allowed these abuses to occur must be held accountable.

2. PROVIDE the INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE for the RED CROSS FULL and UNIMPEDED ACCESS to all detainees in U.S. custody. President Bush must end his administration's contempt for international law, and publicly state that the U.S. is bound to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on Torture.


4. WORK to END OFFENSIVE MILITARY OPERATIONS in IRAQ. Tell your representatives that you strongly believe the U.S. can no longer pursue a military solution to the crisis in Iraq.

5. DEMAND an END to U.S. CONTROL of IRAQ. The U.S. should turn over political responsibility for Iraq’s transition to the UN, acting through an appropriately empowered Special Representative. The U.S. must also seek the assistance of allies to convene an international conference chaired by Secretary General Kofi Annan to develop a viable plan for restoring security and preparing the country for free and fair elections.

Please call your Members of Congress today via the Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121 or 224-3121.

Tell us what actions you took to defend human rights in Iraq and reverse the evils done at Abu Ghraib:


Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC)
1101 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington DC 20003
Tel. 202.543.6176 - Fax 202.543.0725  www.epic-usa.org

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