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Prisoner Abuse at Abu Ghraib

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Iconic photo of a detainee at Abu Ghraib, taken in 2003

Iconic photo of a detainee at Abu Ghraib, taken in 2003

It has been more than five years since our report first made public the abuses underway at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Many don’t know that the story aired in the wake of debate and delay. At the time, there were deep fears that all of us would face a blast furnace of criticism for taking on the administration, “undermining the troops,” and possibly exposing our soldiers to fresh anger from the Muslim world. What those of us working the story knew was that the torment and torture occurring at Abu Ghraib prison was no secret to the Iraqi people. Stories of what was happening inside had already spread throughout the country as relatives of abused prisoners recounted to friends and family what was going on at the hands of our intelligence operatives, paid contractors, and a few soldiers. It was only the American public that was in the dark, never consulted or considered when these policies were approved. Back then, we all needed awakening to what was being done in our names. A couple of years earlier, when our team was in Afghanistan, we had heard whispers of abuse underway at Baghram Airport, where Americans were in charge of an unknown number of prisoners. We flat out didn’t believe it. Now we know better. Abu Ghraib has opened our eyes, serving as a dark icon that reminds us our fiercest enemies -- hubris, cruelty, and ignorance -- wage war from within. Almost daily, the name of the old Iraqi prison is raised in a news report, cited in a policy decision or sitting squarely at the heart of a soldier’s lawsuit. It is still the subject of debate and the source of despair, a shadowy gateway to learning how these wrong-headed practices became American policy. Five years after we broke the news, the story of Abu Ghraib remains front and center—still unfolding, still unfinished. 

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Rather is the anchor of Dan Rather ReportsFollow him on Twitter.

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