On April 28, 2004, CBS broadcast photos of graphic abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, showing bloodied prisoners, forced simulation of masturbation and oral sex, the stacking of naked prisoners with bags over their heads, mock electrocution by a wire connected to a man’s genitals, guard dogs on the verge of ripping into naked men, and grinning U.S. male and female soldiers celebrating the degradation. Three days later, the New Yorker, in an exposé by Seymour Hersh, published extracts from a March 2004 report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba that catalogued U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, including
breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape ... sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.
On the day after Hersh’s article was posted on the Internet, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted in a television interview that he had not yet bothered to read the Taguba report.
Minimizing the damage
The Bush administration quickly portrayed the leaked photos as aberrations resulting from a handful of deviant National Guard members. However, a government consultant informed Hersh that the Abu Ghraib photos were specifically intended to be used to blackmail the prisoners abused, “to create an army of informants, people you could insert back in the population.”
Hersh noted that “the notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq.”