Some eight years ago, a handful of images made their way into the media and slowly turned the course of the Iraq War against the US government. These photographs were taken in an Iraqi prison and showed victims being beaten, humiliated, abused and tortured by US Army soldiers. The pictures and videos led to the denouncement of the Army's handling of Iraqi detainees, and led to investigations into what eventually became the most famous correctional facility for that period: The Abu Ghraib prison. (WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SCENES OF TORTURE AND NUDITY).
The Baghdad Central Prison, formerly known as the Abu Ghraib prison, became the center of worldwide news coverage starting in 2004 when images of prison torture and abuse perpetrated by US Army personnel on Iraqi detainees were released to the media. The photographs became infamous not only for the violent and graphic conditions of the prison and its detainees, but also for the nonchalant attitude of the prison personnel. Some of the more well-known images show US soldiers smiling and giving the thumbs up sign as they posed beside naked and bloodied detainees.
The first images and reports of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse were released to the media by the United States Central Command in the early months of 2004. These initial reports were met with relatively little coverage. It wasn't until the TV program 60 Minutes aired a story about the abuse with the incriminating pictures that the story blew up.
A little while after the 60 minutes report Seymour M. Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist known for exposing government cover-ups, published a piece in the New Yorker with more images and gory details of the affair. As more news agencies picked up the story, a clearer picture of the Abu Ghraib scandal emerged. Analysis of the images and videos and first-hand testimony from the detainees reveal that they were routinely stripped naked, punched, sodomized and tortured.
These reports also revealed that the prison guards would urinate on the detainees and in their living quarters, threaten them with dogs, sexually assault them with batons, and rape them. One other form of abuse was strappado or reverse hanging, an extreme form of torture wherein the victim is hung from a rope tied around his hands behind his back. Many detainees died as a result of these abuses, with some of the deceased having never received a ISN number. This meant that they were never processed into the system which leaves their identities still unknown.
As coverage of the prison abuse grew, many publications called for the resignation of then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior military officials. The US government and the personnel involved in the incidents answered with a mix of reprimands and denials. Among the prison guards involved, specialists Charles Graner and Lynndie England were charged with maltreatment and indecency among many many other charges, and were sentenced to ten and three years in prison respectively. They were also demoted and dishonorably discharged.
Out of the 11 soldiers charged and tried, no one has been convicted of the murders of the detainees. Abu Ghraib Prison is now known as Baghdad Central Prison and is currently under the control of the Iraqi government.
Salon.com has 179 pictures and 19 videos of the Abu Ghraib prison torture, divided up into different chapters. The Wikipedia entry on Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse offers a comprehensive look at the entire affair.