"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Warning: Photos contain disturbing images of violence, abuse and humiliation. These photos were taken with a camera owned by Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr. They depict two major events of abuse: the leashing of a detainee referred to by U.S. soldiers as “Gus” and the punishment of three Iraqi detainees who had been accused of raping a 15-year-old boy in the prison. In addition to the detainees, the pictures show Graner, Pfc. Lynndie England, Spc. Megan Ambuhl, civilian contractor Adel Nakhla, Spc. Roman Krol, Spc. Armin J. Cruz Jr. and Spc. Sabrina Harman, as well as a soldier the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) identifies as Spc. Rivera, three soldiers the CID identifies as “possibly Smith, Davis K. and Cinzano” and one soldier the CID identifies as unknown.
Unlike the first set of photos, the abuses depicted on Oct. 24 and 25 have not been formally connected with specific orders from military leaders. Army investigators found that these incidents showed military police (M.P.) and military intelligence (M.I.) soldiers deciding on their own to punish and embarrass detainees. In his report, Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones categorized these abuses as “intentional violent or sexual abuses” that soldiers and contractors did not believe “were permitted by any policy.”
Other investigators concluded, however, that the worst abuses by military police and others arose from an “atmosphere of permissiveness” that pervaded Abu Ghraib. In one example of this, the report by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay noted that the systematic use of nudity to humiliate detainees in preparation for interrogation “likely contributed to an escalating ‘de-humanization’ of the detainees and set the stage for additional and more severe abuses to occur.”
The first set of pictures, showing England holding the leash of a detainee, was taken by Graner, according to military police statements. In April 2005, Graner told the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command that he had put the leash around the detainee and then handed the end of the leash to England, his girlfriend at the time. The detainee, who is identified by the CID as A—– H—–, was called “Gus” by Graner and England.
Graner claimed to investigators that the detainee crawled out of the cell under his own power. “I asked England to hold the end of the tether that I had because he wasn’t aggressive at this point,” Graner said. England gave a similar account to investigators. “He [Graner] gave me the end of the strap and took a picture,” England told the CID investigators on Jan. 14, 2004. “I did not drag or pull on the leash. I simply stood with the strap in my hand.” According to the CID, Ambuhl can be seen standing at the left side of the frame.
Several hours later, shortly after 11 p.m. on Oct. 25, a second incident was captured by Graner’s digital camera. Army investigators found that three men were delivered to the military intelligence wing at Abu Ghraib, all of them accused of being involved in the rape of an Iraqi teenager. According to the CID, a medical log that night reported the following: “15-year old Iraqi male treated for hemorrhage of his anus. Patient was raped in his hard cell.”
The three men were delivered to a group of military police and military intelligence soldiers, including four military police soldiers — Graner, Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick II, Harman and Sgt. Javal S. Davis — and two military intelligence soldiers, Cruz and Krol.
The soldiers stripped the accused rapists and positioned them in the hallway in a variety of sexual positions, according to the Fay report. “The detainees were naked, being yelled at by an MP through a megaphone. The detainees were forced to crawl on their stomachs and were handcuffed together,” the report said. Fay also noted that one soldier poured water on the detainees from a cup, while another threw a foam football at them.
The detainee named H—–, who may have been shown in an earlier photo with underwear on his head, later told Army investigators that he had witnessed this event. “I saw Grainer [sic] punching one of the prisoners right in his face very hard when he refused to take off his underwear,” the detainee claimed on Jan. 18, 2004. “I heard them begging for help.”
Nakhla, a civilian translator employed by the Titan Corp., told CID investigators on Jan. 18, 2004, that he helped translate the verbal abuse of the other soldiers. “Don’t try to run away. Stop right there. Are you gay? Do you like what is happening to you? Are you all gays? You must like that position. These were some of the questions or things that I told them,” Nakhla said.
England claimed in her January statement that military intelligence had instructed the military police to “rough them [the rape suspects] up.” An appendix to the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba also pointed to involvement by military intelligence, apparently based on England’s statement. The Fay report, too, concluded that there was direct military intelligence involvement in the abuse by the soldiers present. However, Fay said the abuse of the three men, which continued over several days, did not appear “to be based on MI orders.” Fay found that the three accused rapists “were incarcerated for criminal acts and were not of intelligence interest.”