Worse than a flushed Quran

Forget flushed Qurans -- the New York Times, quoting an Army report, details how Afghan prisoner torture was widespread

Published May 20, 2005 2:47PM (EDT)

"Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him." So begins the chilling New York Times account today regarding "a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation" that details chronic prisoner abuse and torture at the U.S. detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2002.

"Like a narrative counterpart to the digital images from Abu Ghraib, the Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths," the Times reports. "Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both."

The account comes against the backdrop of the Newsweek controversy in which the weekly magazine retracted a speculative account of a Quran being flushed down a toilet during a prisoner interrogation at Guantánamo Bay. The report, in part, fueled deadly protests in Afghanistan, and Newsweek's American critics claimed the magazine's bogus report hurt the U.S. image in the Arab world. But as the Times details, there's a catalog of U.S. military crimes against Afghans that likely decimated the U.S. reputation there years ago.

Here's what the Army reported happened to the "young Afghan man" from the Times article:

"At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"'Leave him up,' one of the guards quoted Specialist [Joshua] Claus as saying.

"Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time."

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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