Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tomgram: Lost in a Bermuda Triangle of Injustice

The Facts on the Ground

Mini-Gulags, Hired Guns, Lobbyists, and a Reality Built on Fear
By Tom Engelhardt

This August, a site of shame, shared by Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush, was emptied. Abu Ghraib prison is the place where Saddam's functionaries tortured (and sometimes killed) many enemies of his regime, and where Bush's functionaries, as a series of notorious digital photos revealed, committed what the U.S. press still likes to refer to as "prisoner abuse." Now, there are no prisoners to abuse and the prison itself is to be turned over to the Iraqi government, perhaps to become a museum, perhaps to remain a jail for another regime whose handling of prisoners is grim indeed. The emptying was clearly meant as a redemptive moment or, as Nancy A. Youssef of the McClatchy Newspapers put it, "a milestone" for the huge structure. After all the bad media and the hit American "prestige" took around the world, Abu Ghraib was finally over.

Of course, its prisoners who remained generally uncharged and without access to Iraqi courts, weren't just released to the winds. Quite the opposite, over 3,000 of them were redistributed to two other U.S. prisons, Camp Bucca in Iraq's south and Camp Cropper at the huge U.S. base adjoining Baghdad International Airport, once dedicated to the holding of "high-value" detainees like Saddam Hussein and top officials of his regime.

Camp Cropper itself turns out to be an interesting story, but one with a problem: While the emptying of Abu Ghraib made the news everywhere, the filling of Camp Cropper made no news at all. And yet it turns out that Camp Cropper, which started out as a bunch of tents, has now become a $60 million "state-of-the-art" prison. The upgrade, on the drawing boards since 2004, was just completed and hardly a word has been written about it. We really have no idea what it consists of or what it looks like, even though it's in one of the few places in Iraq that an American reporter could safely visit, being on a vast American military base constructed, like the prison, with taxpayer dollars.

Had anyone paid the slightest attention -- other than the Pentagon, the Bush administration, and whatever company or companies had the contract to construct the facility -- it would still have been taken for granted that Camp Cropper wasn't the business of ordinary Americans (or even their representatives in Congress). Despite the fact that the $60 million dollars, which made the camp "state of the art," was surely ours, no one in the United States debated or discussed the upgrade and there was no serious consideration of it in Congress before the money was anted up -- any more than Congress or the American people are in any way involved in the constant upgrading of our military bases in Iraq.

While Iraq and future Iraq policy are constantly in the news, almost all the American facts-on-the-ground in that country -- of which Camp Bucca is one -- have come into being without consultation with the American people or, in any serious way, Congress (or testing in the courts).

Camp Bucca is a story you can't read anywhere -- and yet it may, in a sense, be the most important American story in Iraq right now. While arguments spin endlessly here at home about the nature of withdrawal "timetables," and who's cutting and running from what, and how many troops we will or won't have in-country in 2007, 2008, or 2009, on the ground a process continues that makes mockery of the debate in Washington and in the country. While the "reconstruction" of Iraq has come to look ever more like the deconstruction of Iraq, the construction of an ever more permanent-looking American landscape in that country has proceeded apace and with reasonable efficiency.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

2 comment(s):

great info and opinon! too reminiscent of nazi concentration camps and all the ones that just weren't common knowledge.

By Blogger Scout, at 1:05 PM  

Yes indeed. Tom Engelhardt is not afraid to tell it like it is.

By Blogger Annamarie, at 10:13 PM  

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