Monday, November 01, 2004

Abu Ghraib and the Overlook Hotel

Very disturbing and creepy story from The Guardian.


Joseph Curtis (not his real name) worked the night shift at the Abu Ghraib prison in the autumn of 2003. When I talked to him he had been exiled by the army to a town in Germany. The threat of a court martial hung over him. He had previously given an interview about what he had seen to an international press agency, thus incurring the wrath of his superiors. Even so, against his own better judgement, and against his lawyers' advice, he agreed to meet me, secretly, at an Italian restaurant in June 2004.

We sat on the balcony of the restaurant and he pushed his food around his plate. "You ever see The Shining?" he said.

"Yes," I said.

"Abu Ghraib was like the Overlook Hotel," he said. "It was haunted."

I assumed Joseph meant the place was full of spooks: intelligence officers - but the look on his face made me realise he didn't.

"It was haunted," he said. "It got so dark at night. So dark. Under Saddam, people were dissolved in acid there. Women raped by dogs. Brains splattered all over the walls. This was worse than the Overlook Hotel because it was real.

"It was like the building wanted to be back in business," he said.

Joseph remarked that he couldn't believe how much money was floating around the army these days. These were the golden days, in budgetary terms. This was not a side issue. In January 2004, the influential think tank and lobbying group, GlobalSecurity, revealed that George W Bush's government had filtered more money into their Black Budget than any other administration in American history. Black Budgets often just fund Black Ops - highly sensitive and deeply shady projects such as assassination squads, and so on. But Black Budgets also fund schemes so bizarre that their disclosure might lead voters to believe their leaders have taken leave of their senses. Bush's administration had, by January 2004, channelled approximately $30bn into the Black Budget - to be spent on God knows what.

"Abu Ghraib," Joseph was telling me, "was a tourist attraction. I remember one time I was woken up by two captains. 'Where's the death chamber?' They wanted to see the rope and the lever. When Rumsfeld came to visit, he didn't want to talk to the soldiers. All he wanted to see was the death chamber."

Joseph took a bite of his food.

"Yeah, the beast in man really came out at Abu Ghraib," he said.

"You mean in the photographs?" I asked.

"Everywhere," he said. "The senior leadership were screwing around with the lower ranks ... "

I told Joseph I didn't understand what he meant.

He said, "The senior leaders were having sex with the lower ranks. The detainees were raping each other."

"Did you ever see any ghosts?" I asked him.

"There was a darkness about the place," he replied.

Joseph was in charge of the super-classified computer network at Abu Ghraib. His job didn't take him into the isolation block, even though it was just down the corridor, but on one occasion he was invited to see the model planes someone had made - and also to take a look at the "high values". (The "high values" were what the US army called the suspected terrorists, insurgent leaders, rapists or child-molesters.) He accepted the invitation.

The isolation block was where all the photographs were taken - the human pyramid, and so on. Joseph turned the corner into the block.

"There were two MPs there," he told me. "And they were constantly screaming. 'SHUT THE FUCK UP!' They were screaming at some old guy, making him repeat a number over and over.

"'156403. 156403. 156403.'

"The guy couldn't speak English. He couldn't pronounce the numbers.


"'156403. 156403.'


"Then they saw me. 'Hey, Joseph! How are you? I CAN'T FUCKING HEAR YOU. LOUDER.' "

Joseph said that the MPs had basically gone straight from McDonald's to Abu Ghraib. They knew nothing. And now they were getting scapegoated because they happened to be identifiable in the photographs. They just did what the Military Intelligence people, Joseph's people, told them to do. PsyOps were just a phone call away, Joseph said. And the Military Intelligence people all had PsyOps training anyway. The thing I had to remember about Military Intelligence was that they were the "nerdy-type guys at school. You know. The outcasts. Couple all that with ego, and a poster on the wall saying 'By CG Approval' - Commanding General Approval - and suddenly you have guys who think they govern the world. That's what one of them said to me. 'We govern the world.' "

An aide to Condoleezza Rice, the White House national security adviser, visited the prison, to inform the interrogators sternly that they weren't getting useful enough information from the detainees. "Then," Joseph said, "a whole platoon of Guantánamo people arrived. The word got around. 'Oh God, the Gitmo guys are here.' Bam! There they were. They took the place over." Perhaps Guantánamo Bay was Experimental Lab Mark 1, and whatever esoteric techniques worked there were exported to Abu Ghraib.


Anonymous mondo said...

A grim reminder. Thanks for reminding me. So when will I stop freefalling down this rabbit hole? Doesn't seem very soon considering the Bush cabal has siphoned 30 BILLION into a Black Op Slush Fund!

1:41 AM  

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