Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" - Doc Traces Path to Torture of Prisoners at Infamous Iraqi Prison

Democracy Now!
With Amy Goodman

""The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" - a new HBO documentary - traces the political and legal precedents that led to the torture of prisoners at the infamous Iraqi prison. It includes numerous interviews with U.S. soldiers directly involved with torture at Abu Ghraib, Iraqi torture survivors as well as experts, legal scholars and former government officials. We speak with acclaimed filmmaker Rory Kennedy.....

Another memo sought by Gonzales provided a narrow definition of torture so as to allow very severe interrogation techniques.

John Yoo, a former Justice Department official at the Office of Legal Counsel: "Our office eventually issued a memo in August of 2002 to the White House. 'Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death.'

That was an excerpt from the HBO documentary "The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib." The film traces the political and legal precedents that led to the torture of prisoners at the infamous Iraqi prison. It includes numerous interviews with American soldiers directly involved with torture at Abu Ghraib......

AMY GOODMAN: You had quite a showing on Capitol Hill, when you had both Janis Karpinski there, who was demoted, and also the South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Talk about what happened.

RORY KENNEDY: Well, we did have a screening. And Senator Kennedy was there, as well. There was a panel.

AMY GOODMAN: Your uncle.

RORY KENNEDY: Yes. Senator Kennedy and Senator Graham, and Senator Graham had -- when he was asked by Jeffrey Toobin, who was moderating the panel, “Who was really responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib?” he, you know, mentioned a number of different organizations and kind of groups of people, but the person that he really targeted was Janis Karpinski. Unfortunately, Janis Karpinski -- he didn’t realize that Janis Karpinski was in the audience, because he had arrived a little late. And so, Jeffrey Toobin then gave her an opportunity to defend herself, and she really went in on the attack. One of the things that he had said was, you know, she should have been court-martialed, and she rebutted, “You know, I wanted to be court-martialed. I wanted to go to court, but nobody would let me, because they didn’t want me to tell the whole story of really what happened.” So it got pretty heated.

AMY GOODMAN: She called Senator Graham a coward.

RORY KENNEDY: She did, she did. And, you know, he stood his ground, but it was -- you know, I think it’s telling. I think this continues to be an issue that touches a lot of people and brings a lot of issues to the surface. It’s an important issue.....

AMY GOODMAN: Let's end with the prisoners, the people who were tortured. How did you track them down?

RORY KENNEDY: I worked with a group in Philadelphia, a legal group, Susan Burke, who was representing a number of the prisoners in a class-action suit against independent contractors. And she ultimately was able to put me in touch with a number of the prisoners who were willing to speak with us on camera. And they were not willing to be filmed in Iraq, because they felt the situation there was too precarious, too dangerous, so we ended up flying them to Jordan and filming them there.

And, you know, I think that they offer a dimension to the film that is really important and a dimension to this story, because we’ve seen the photographs, but we haven’t really heard the voices of those who were most directly involved. And it really made me feel, in talking with them and interviewing them that the photographs were just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the level of abuse, the constancy of it, and the degrading nature of it and the horror of it, really. They were so dignified in their telling of these horrific events and, I think, so courageous in their willingness to even speak with me. And I think their voices are essential. And as, you know, we know that in this war in Iraq, in general, we really haven't heard from the Iraqis, right? We’ve heard a lot of people talking about the Iraqis, but we haven’t heard from them directly. And so, it was important to me in this film to hear from the people who are most directly involved.....

ANY GOODMAN: The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib is chilling, it is unforgettable, and unfortunately it is all too real.

RORY KENNEDY: Yes, and it’s on HBO for the rest of the month, so I hope people will tune in......"

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