(U-WIRE) – The infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad is slated to reopen in February, complete with a new name and a purportedly new moral construct.
Now officially the Baghdad Central Prison, Abu Ghraib, in its heyday, held anywhere between 40,000 and 60,000 prisoners, a number that dwarfs the couple of hundred detained at the similarly notorious Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility.
In 2004, The New Yorker and “60 Minutes” both drew attention to heinous human rights violations perpetrated at Abu Ghraib, setting in motion a media firestorm.
Chilling photographs emerged from within the tempest: a female prison guard flips a jovial thumbs up at the camera as she poses next to a naked, blind-folded inmate; a male guard forces hoods over the heads of naked prisoners, while an unconscious man lies in the foreground, “I’m a rapist [sic]” written on his bare thigh; two prison guards stand behind a pyramid of tangled, naked bodies – they clasp arms and give another cavalier thumbs up, with all the nonchalance of a birthday snapshot.
The Abu Ghraib images sent a shudder around the world. The menial officers involved were given slaps on the wrists or short prison sentences, while officials higher up on the pecking order remained legally unscathed.
Where the legal system refused to enforce accountability, the media and the American public issued an indignant outcry.
It is this upwelling of unanimous disgust that allows us to hope that history will not be painted over. Americans saw the atrocities of Abu Ghraib in the conveniently lurid photos splashed across the front pages of newspapers; it would, however, be foolish to assume that this type of abuse was unique to Iraq. The prison guards and soldiers who do not have the bravado to take photographs still remain largely unchecked by moral authority.