I decided I would try and determine which photo from Abu Ghraib I considered the most blasphemous.
After going through all the torture pictures again, however, I couldn’t find anything more obscene than the images of Don Rumsfeld on the premises. Rumsfeld actually visited the prison a couple times. The most well documented was the visit he made in May ’04 after the first set of torture pictures had been released. At that point, the visit represented one of those classic BushCo. reactions in which any misstep requires a show of bravado at the scene of the crime.
On that trip, most of the images were recorded on the way to the installation or on the grounds outside. (Example 1, 2, 3.) As far as I can tell, there was only one shot taken inside, which the Village Voice had a field day with. (The caption reads: “This is the only known photo of soldiers at Abu Ghraib taking pictures of a fully clothed person inside the prison.”)
The most blasphemous picture, however, is the one above, taken on a visit in September ’03. This was just around the time Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller — the officer who had been in charge of Guantanamo Bay — arrived at Abu Ghraib saying he was going to “Gitmo-ize” the place. (The period in which the abuses took place was October to December 2003.) In most of these shots (example 1), Rumsfeld has Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski in tow, the commander of the base whose oversight was supplanted by military intelligence, and then was sacked for failing to stay on top of the situation.
If not a direct indictment, it is really chilling to see Rumsfeld in the body of Abu Ghraib just a month before the abuses began. If nothing else, the photo reveals tension in Karpinski and the intensity and selective attention of Rumsfeld. (A, B and C.)
There was at least one other shot of this visit from inside the facility. In this instance, Rummy is focused on the guy in the blue shirt to the exclusion of all else. And, even though this guy is not reciprocating the attention (D), it seems Rumsfeld could wait.
(image 1: unattributed. September 2003. Iraq. www.antiwar.com. image 2: Mike Kelly/AP. September 2003. www.irak.be.)