CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr should be given some kind of award
for the most outrageously off-target reporting on the newly
released photos and videos of U.S. torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu
Ghraib prison in Iraq. In her numerous appearances during the morning news cycle
on CNN after the images were first broadcast on Australia's SBS television,
Starr described what she saw as the "root of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal"
"Let's start by reminding everybody that under U.S. military law and
practice, the only photographs that can be taken are official photographs
for documentation purposes about the status of prisoners when they are in
military detention. That's it. Anything else is not acceptable. And of course,
that is what the Abu Ghraib prison scandal is all about."
What? Here I thought the "scandal" was that the U.S. military was
systematically abusing prisoners. These new photos, with their documentation
of violently inflicted, open wounds, obliterate any notion that what occurred
at Abu Ghraib was anything short of torture by all accepted definitions of the
term. They reveal some horrifying scenes of naked, humiliated, bloodied prisoners,
some with apparent gunshot wounds. In a video broadcast on Australia's SBS,
naked, hooded prisoners were seen being forced to masturbate in front of the
camera. But, according to CNN's Starr, the real transgression was that some
soldiers documented the torture in violation of "U.S. military law and
practice." In a report later in the morning, Starr returned to her outrageous
characterization of the "scandal," beginning her report:
"As we look at a couple of the photographs, let's remind people that
why these are so inappropriate. Under U.S. military law and practice and procedure,
you simply cannot take photographs – as we're going to show you some
of them right now. You cannot take photographs of people in detention, in
humiliating positions, positions that are abusive in any way, shape or form.
The only pictures that are ever allowed of people in U.S. military detention
would be pictures for documentation purposes. And, clearly, these pictures
are not that. That is the whole issue that has been at the root of the Abu
Ghraib prison scandal, that it was abusive, the practices in which soldiers
"You cannot take photographs of people in detention, in humiliating positions,
positions that are abusive in any way, shape or form," according to Starr.
But apparently it's OK to place them in those humiliating, abusive positions
– or at least not worth commenting on in these reports on CNN. Starr continued
her report, describing Pentagon reaction to the newly released photos:
"But the Pentagon certainly is not happy that these pictures, these
additional pictures, which had not been distributed publicly in the past,
Pentagon not happy that they are out. And the reason is, the Pentagon had
filed a lawsuit trying to prevent their publication in the United States out
of concern, they say, that it would spark violence in the Arab world to see
these photographs and it would put U.S. military forces at risk."
The release of the photographs will spark the violence? No – U.S. torture
of prisoners sparks massive outrage, and justifiably so. Moreover, this outrage
should not just be confined to the "Arab world" but should be felt
everywhere, particularly in the U.S. Besides, Pentagon lawyers have already
tried this defense in federal court, and a judge ruled that fear of facing the
consequences of your actions is not a legitimate defense.
Starr concluded another report saying the Pentagon is concerned that if the
images "appear in the Islamic world … they will incite unrest in
the Islamic world, and therefore put U.S. military troops at risk."
CNN anchor Zain Vergee then shot back, "And they were swiftly put on Arab
TV. As you say, they're out there."
They were swiftly put on Arab TV. Is there something devious about that? Is
"Arab TV" somehow committing some transgression against freedom and
democracy by broadcasting these images that were first put out by Australian
TV in a country Bush claims as his ally?
All of the images of the torture at Abu Ghraib should be made public, as the
Center for Constitutional Rights and ACLU have been fighting for, because they
are an accurate representation of what has happened and continues to happen
in U.S.-run and -supported gulags around the world.
When and if they are released, Barbara Starr should be reminded that
she is supposed to be a CNN reporter at the Pentagon, not a Pentagon spokesperson