Abu Ghraib: Sexual abuse
The only attempts at formal justification for abusive treatment made by the administration or military was that taking pictures and videos of it would help encourage prisoners to talk, if they assumed that the pictures were only snapshots of what could be far worse treatment. If this were true, then, the worst assumptions of prisoners would not come true, and actual treatment of prisoners would be far more humane than the pictures had shown.
If this were the case, however, "offstage" events would certainly not include sexual abuse of prisoners, a particularly sensitive issue in the Muslim world where improper male-male and male-female sexual contact is very often considered worthy of honor killing or death penalty.
A report released on May 21, 2004, claimed based on firsthand accounts that "some prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were ridden like animals, fondled by female soldiers, forced to curse their religion and required to retrieve their food from toilets, according to a published report Friday." CNN "Report: Soldiers fondled Iraqi Prisoners"
These were apparently not staged events that took place strictly for cameras, nor were they consistently filmed or otherwise recorded at all.
The Washington Post in its edition of that same day also said detainees told investigators they were forced to denounce Islam or force-fed pork or liquor, required to masturbate in front of female soldiers, threatened with rape, and made to walk on all their hands and knees and bark like dogs.
"They said we will make you wish to die and it will not happen," the newspaper quoted one detainee, identified as Ameen Saeed Al-Sheik, as saying.
It remains possible that these allegations are false. However, they are quite consistent with prior reports, and it is difficult to imagine how, given what was photographed, the Pentagon could possibly manage to prove them to be false, to the satisfaction of its allies and moderates in the Muslim world, who were already consistently calling for a total withdrawal of all forces from the region.
Scott Higham and Joe Stephens reported in the May 21, 2004, Washington Post that "New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge. Abu Ghraib Detainees' Statements Describe Sexual Humiliation And Savage Beatings."
- "Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.
- "The fresh allegations of prison abuse are contained in statements taken from 13 detainees shortly after a soldier reported the incidents to military investigators in mid-January. The detainees said they were savagely beaten and repeatedly humiliated sexually by American soldiers working on the night shift at Tier 1A in Abu Ghraib during the holy month of Ramadan, according to copies of the statements obtained by The Washington Post."
- Sworn Statements by Abu Ghraib Detainees. "These documents, obtained by The Washington Post, are the offical English translations of previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Some of the names have been withheld from these statements by washingtonpost.com because they are alleged victims of sexual assault. These files are in PDF format. Some of the descriptions in these statements may be disturbing because of their sexually explicit or graphic nature." (Posted May 21, 2004).