David Phinney / CorpWatch – 2004-12-11 09:06:28
(December 9th, 2004) — Rotten food crawling with bugs, traces of rats and dirt. Rancid meats and spoilt food resulting in diarrhea and food poisoning. This is what detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were regularly given to eat by a private contractor in late 2003 and early 2004, causing anger to swell to a furious boil between the US military guards and the prisoners.
Foul as the food was, there never was enough. The private contractor, run by an American civilian who was subsequently killed, routinely fell short by hundreds of meals for Abu Ghraib’s surging prison population. When the food did arrive, there were often late and frequently contaminated.
So went another sad chapter in the story of the Abu Ghraib prison, where US military personnel and private contractors would make headlines and ignite international outrage over allegations of torture psychological abuse in May of this year.
Captured in photographs now infamous for portraying naked, hooded prisoners and smiling guards, the behavior is believed to be one of the most damning acts toward Iraqi civilians by coalition forces. Other acts of violence toward the prisoners include physical abuse and still unproved allegations of rape and murder.
The Abu Ghraib prison, already infamous under Saddam Hussein’s regime, for overcrowding, ill-treatment and torture, was opened up by the over-extended military soon after the April 2003 occupation.
The inmates were a mix of petty and hardened Iraqi criminals, suspected members of the resistance, and thousands of innocent bystanders hauled out of their homes in midnight raids or off the streets of Baghdad. Many say that they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but were held without charges by coalition forces for months before being released.
Undermaned US Troops Turned to Titan
Unable to run the prison themselves, the US military hired private translators from Titan, a California-based company, interrogators from CACI, a Virginia-based company, two large and well known military contractors. In addition, they hired a small, virtually unknown contractor from Qatar, to provide food to the inmates.
A shocked Army Major, David Dinenna of the 320 Military Police Battalion, was one of the first to recognize the food problem. In a string of frantic e-mails to commanders during October and November, he called for assistance from his chain of command while working at the prison.
“Contract Meals Disaster,” he called it in an October 27, 2003, e-mail. “That is the best way to describe this issue … As each day goes by, the tension within the prisoner populations increases,” he continued. “For the past two days prisoners have been vomiting after they eat.”
The food was largely to blame for a November 24, 2003 prison riots in which Army guards shot four detainees after the prisoners failed to comply with commands to stop and disburse. A subsequent Pentagon investigation found that prisoners were not attempting a “mass” escape as first thought.
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