95 per cent US dailies ignored report on torture of Iraqi prisoners
December 2, 2005 | Newswatch Desk | Newswatch

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Military autopsy reports provide indisputable proof that detainees are being tortured to death while in US military custody. Yet the corporate media of the United States (US) is covering it with the seriousness of a garage sale for the local Baptist Church, media research organisation Project Censored has said.

According to Prof Peter Phillips, director, Project Censored, a press release on these deaths by torture was issued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on October 25, 2005 and was immediately picked up by Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI) wire services, making the story available to the US corporate media. A thorough check of Nexus-Lexus and Proquest electronic data bases, using the keywords ACLU and autopsy, showed that at least 95 per cent of the daily papers in the US didn't bother to pick up the story.

The Los Angeles Times covered the story on page A-4 with a 635-word report headlined "Autopsies Support Abuse Allegations." Fewer than a dozen other daily newspapers including: Bangor Daily News, Maine; Telegraph-Herald, Dubuque Iowa; Charleston Gazette; Advocate, Baton Rouge; and a half dozen others actually covered the story.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Seattle Times buried the story inside general Iraq news articles. USA Today posted the story on its website. MSNBC posted the story to its website, but apparently did not consider it newsworthy enough to air on television.

"The Randi Rhodes Show," on Air America Radio, covered the story. AP/UPI news releases and direct quotes from the ACLU website appeared widely on Internet sites and on various news-based listservs around the world, including Common Dreams, Truthout, New Standard, Science Daily, and numerous others, Phillips said.

What little attention the news of the US torturing prisoners to death did get has completely disappeared as context for the torture stories now appearing in corporate media. A Nexus-Lexus search November 30, 2005 of the major papers in the US using the word torture turned up over 1,000 stories in the last 30 days. None of these included the ACLU report as supporting documentation on the issue.

The Project Censored director wondered, "How can the American public understand the gravity of the torture that is currently being committed in our name when the issue is being reported with no reference to the extent to which these crimes against humanity have gone? Has the Internet become the only source of real news for mainstream Americans while the corporate media only tells us what they want us to know?"

Project Censored is a media research group out of Sonoma State University which tracks the news published in independent journals and newsletters. From these, Project Censored compiles an annual list of 25 news stories of social significance that have been overlooked, under-reported or self-censored by the country's major national news media.

According to Phillips, a recent American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) posting of one of forty-four US military autopsy reports read as follows: "Final Autopsy Report: DOD 003164, (Detainee) Died as a result of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation as evidenced by the recently fractured hyoid bone in the neck and soft tissue hemorrhage extending downward to the level of the right thyroid cartilage. Autopsy revealed bone fracture, rib fractures, contusions in mid abdomen, back and buttocks extending to the left flank, abrasions, lateral buttocks. Contusions, back of legs and knees; abrasions on knees, left fingers and encircling to left wrist. Lacerations and superficial cuts, right 4th and 5th fingers. Also, blunt force injuries, predominately recent contusions (bruises) on the torso and lower extremities. Abrasions on left wrist are consistent with use of restraints. No evidence of defense injuries or natural disease. Manner of death is homicide. Whitehorse Detainment Facility, Nasiriyah, Iraq."

The ACLU website further reveals how: "a 27-year-old Iraqi male died while being interrogated by Navy Seals on April 5, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. During his confinement he was hooded, flex-cuffed, sleep deprived and subjected to hot and cold environmental conditions, including the use of cold water on his body and hood. The exact cause of death was "undetermined" although the autopsy stated that hypothermia may have contributed to his death.

Another Iraqi detainee died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated. He was standing, shackled to the top of a doorframe with a gag in his mouth, at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries.

So read several of the 44 US military autopsy reports on the ACLU website – evidence of extensive abuse of US detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan 2002 through 2004. Anthony Romero, executive director of ACLU stated, "There is no question that US interrogations have resulted in deaths." ACLU attorney Amrit Sing added, "These documents present irrefutable evidence that US operatives tortured detainees to death during interrogations."

Additionally, ACLU reported that in April 2003, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorised the use of "environmental manipulation" as an interrogation technique in Guantánamo Bay. In September 2003, Lt Gen Sanchez also authorised this technique for use in Iraq. So responsibility for these human atrocities went directly to the highest levels of power, Phillips said.
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