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Responding to a lawsuit, the Department of Defense last week released 198 photos that added little to our understanding of the shameful period after the Sept. 11 attacks during which American troops systematically abused detainees. If the military has its way, the period will be largely forgotten. The Pentagon continues to fight the release of roughly 1,800 photos gathered as part of criminal investigations into allegations of prisoner mistreatment by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those images are believed to provide grisly evidence of prisoner abuse and are far more graphic than those just released. They belong in the public domain. America’s recent wartime history, which includes ugly chapters, should be fully recorded and reckoned with.

Since 2004, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit seeking records of detainee abuse, the Pentagon has argued that dissemination of the images could put American troops at risk. That is not a frivolous concern. But it cannot be used indefinitely to shield senior government officials from accountability or to keep Americans in the dark about the scope and nature of barbaric acts committed in their name.

The leaked photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in 2004 set off international outrage, which prompted the Bush administration to characterize it as an isolated lapse. In fact, it soon became clear that those images, which depicted naked Iraqi detainees being taunted by dogs and military guards, were part of a broader pattern. The latest photos include close-up shots of body parts of detainees bearing welts and bruises.

Over the years, the A.C.L.U. has compiled a database with information gleaned from other public records about some of the images that remain hidden from view. Some are autopsy photos of detainees who died in American custody under unexplained circumstances. Others are said to depict inmates being humiliated and abused.

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In 2005, District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered the Pentagon to release the images. After an appeals court upheld that decision in 2008, Congress passed a law allowing the military to keep the photos hidden but mandating that the release be reconsidered every three years. Last year, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter became the latest Pentagon chief to argue that the most damning images should remain concealed, although he signed off on the release of the 198 images made public last week.

The A.C.L.U. intends to argue before Judge Hellerstein in coming weeks that all the photos must be released and that the Pentagon, at the very least, should be compelled to offer a detailed description of what they show.

“Perhaps the photos will reinvigorate the debate about who should be held accountable for the abuses, and in what way,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the A.C.L.U., who is litigating the case. “Blinding ourselves to the ugly consequences of the government’s policies only deprives us of the opportunity to learn from history.”

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Enough is enough — U.S. abdication on Syria must come to an end

Syrian refugees wait for food near a refugee camp in Bab Al-Salama city in northern Syria, on Feb. 6. (Sedat Suna/European Pressphoto Agency)

Michael Ignatieff is the Edward R. Murrow professor of practice at the Harvard Kennedy School. Leon Wieseltier is the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution.

As Russian planes decimate Aleppo, and hundreds of thousands of civilians in Syria’s largest city prepare for encirclement, blockade and siege — and for the starvation and the barbarity that will inevitably follow — it is time to proclaim the moral bankruptcy of American and Western policy in Syria.

Actually, it is past time. The moral bankruptcy has been long in the making: five years of empty declarations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, of halfhearted arming of rebel groups, of allowing the red line on chemical weapons to be crossed and of failing adequately to share Europe’s refugee burden as it buckles under the strain of the consequences of Western inaction. In the meantime, a quarter-million Syrians have died, 7 million have been displaced and nearly 5 million are refugees. Two million of the refugees are children.

This downward path leads to the truly incredible possibility that as the Syrian dictator and his ruthless backers close in on Aleppo, the government of the United States, in the name of the struggle against the Islamic State, will simply stand by while Russia, Assad and Iran destroy their opponents at whatever human cost.

It is time for those who care about the moral standing of the United States to say that this policy is shameful. If the United States and its NATO allies allow its inglorious new partners to encircle and starve the people of Aleppo, they will be complicit in crimes of war. The ruins of our own integrity will be found amid the ruins of Aleppo. Indiscriminate bombardment of civilians is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. So is the use of siege and blockade to starve civilians. We need not wait for proof of Assad’s and Vladimir Putin’s intentions as they tighten the noose. “Barrel bombs” have been falling on bread lines and hospitals in the city (and elsewhere in Syria) for some time. Starvation is a long-standing and amply documented instrument in Assad’s tool kit of horrors.

Aleppo is an emergency, requiring emergency measures. Are we no longer capable of emergency action? It is also an opportunity, perhaps the last one, to save Syria. Aleppo is the new Sarajevo, the new Srebrenica, and its fate should be to the Syrian conflict what the fate of Sarajevo and Srebrenica were to the Bosnian conflict: the occasion for the United States to bestir itself, and for the West to say with one voice “enough.” It was after Srebrenica and Sarajevo — and after the air campaign with which the West finally responded to the atrocities — that the United States undertook the statecraft that led to the Dayton accords and ended the war in Bosnia.

The conventional wisdom is that nothing can be done in Syria, but the conventional wisdom is wrong. There is a path toward ending the horror in Aleppo — a perfectly realistic path that will honor our highest ideals, a way to recover our moral standing as well as our strategic position. Operating under a NATO umbrella, the United States could use its naval and air assets in the region to establish a no-fly zone from Aleppo to the Turkish border and make clear that it will prevent the continued bombardment of civilians and refugees by any party, including the Russians. It could use the no-fly zone to keep open the corridor with Turkey and use its assets to resupply the city and internally displaced people in the region with humanitarian assistance.

If the Russians and Syrians seek to prevent humanitarian protection and resupply of the city, they would face the military consequences. The U.S. military is already in hourly contact with the Russian military about de-conflicting their aircraft over Syria, and the administration can be in constant contact with the Russian leadership to ensure that a humanitarian protection mission need not escalate into a great-power confrontation. But risk is no excuse for doing nothing. The Russians and the Syrians will immediately understand the consequences of U.S. and NATO action: They will learn, in the only language they seem to understand, that they cannot win the Syrian war on their repulsive terms. The use of force to protect civilians, and to establish a new configuration of power in which the skies will no longer be owned by the Syrian tyrant and the Russian tyrant, may set the stage for a tough and serious negotiation to bring an end to the slaughter.

This is what U.S. leadership in the 21st century should look like: bringing together force and diplomacy, moral commitment and strategic boldness, around an urgent humanitarian objective that would command the support of the world. The era of our Syrian abdication must end now. If we do not come to the rescue of Aleppo, if we do not do everything we can to put a stop to the suffering that is the defining and most damaging abomination of our time, Aleppo will be a stain on our conscience forever.

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[if (gt IE 9)|!(IE)]> > Abu Ghraib News - Breaking World Abu Ghraib News - The New York Times [if (gte IE 9)|!(IE)]> >

Abu Ghraib

Associated Press
News about Abu Ghraib, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.

Highlights From the Archives

Fresh Paint and Flowers at Iraqi House of Horrors

Iraq’s Ministry of Justice allowed reporters rare access to the Abu Ghraib prison, which has been partly renovated.

February 22, 2009 worldNews

Iraq Abuse Trial Is Again Limited to Lower Ranks

In the conviction of a dog handler, a military jury again decided higher-ranking officers were not to blame for Abu Ghraib abuses.

March 23, 2006 usNews
Foreign Desk

In Abuse, a Portrayal of Ill-Prepared, Overwhelmed G.I.'s

In theory, the battalion's specialty was guarding enemy prisoners of war, a task that was expected to be a major logistical problem. In fact, an Army report said few of the 1,000 reservists of the 320th had been trained to do that, and fewer still knew how to run a prison.

May 9, 2004 worldNews
Foreign Desk

G.I.'s Are Accused of Abusing Iraqi Captives

American soldiers at a prison outside Baghdad have been accused of forcing Iraqi prisoners into acts of sexual humiliation and other abuses in order to make them talk.

April 29, 2004 worldNews
Foreign Desk

6 G.I.'s in Iraq Are Charged With Abuse Of Prisoners

The American military brought charges of assault, cruelty, indecent acts and maltreatment of detainees against six soldiers in connection with alleged abuse of prisoners in Iraq.

March 21, 2004 worldNews


Evidence of Prisoner Abuse, Still Hidden

Allowing the Pentagon to indefinitely block the release of photos that document prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan is unjustifiable.

February 9, 2016, Tuesday

U.S. Psychologists Urged to Curb Questioning Terror Suspects

The proposal came after a report that members colluded with the Pentagon and the C.I.A. in justifying harsh questioning of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.

July 31, 2015, Friday

Mitch McConnell’s N.S.A. Debacle

His recent fumble over the Patriot Act was the outcome of six years of ideological mindlessness.

June 2, 2015, Tuesday

Federal Judge Orders U.S. Government to Release Photos of Abu Ghraib Abuse

A federal judge on Friday ruled that the United States government must release photographs showing the abuse of detainees in American custody at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and other sites.

March 21, 2015, Saturday

Will Anyone Pay for Abu Ghraib?

A civil trial does not guarantee that anyone would be held accountable for the crimes committed at the American prison in Iraq, but it would be an important start.

February 5, 2015, Thursday

On Torture: Cheney, McCain et Al.

Readers respond to remarks by former Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John McCain.

December 16, 2014, Tuesday

Readers Respond: On the Senate Torture Report

Readers reacted with outrage, insight and introspection to an editorial and Op-Eds on the Senate torture report.

December 12, 2014, Friday

I Can’t Be Forgiven for Abu Ghraib

As a former interrogator in Iraq, I was not surprised by the torture report.

December 10, 2014, Wednesday

Psychologists to Review Role in Detainee Interrogations

The nation’s largest organization of psychologists will investigate whether it supported the government’s use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush administration.

November 14, 2014, Friday

Stop Hiding Images of American Torture

America reinforces its values by being transparent — even about horrific abuses of those values.

August 31, 2014, Sunday


Anatomy of an Interrogation

The story of the first and only CIA contractor to be convicted in a torture-related case after an interrogation.

Key Moments in the Torture Debate

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A. interrogation tactics added a new chapter to the national conversation on the government’s use of torture.

Morris: A World in Which Things Happen

Part 7: The filmmaker talks about his film “Standard Operating Procedure” and explains why he wanted to make a film about Abu Ghraib.

Morris: Sabrina Harman and Abu Ghraib

Part 8: The filmmaker debunks what he sees as the biggest misconception about the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs.

Iraq After the U.S. Military Withdrawal

A look at Baghdad, Iraqi governance and regional disputes after the U.S. military withdrawal.

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