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This Happened

This Happened—November 4: Horror At Abu Graib

Twenty years ago today this image of shame was taken.

The prisoners at Abu Graib, many of whom were civilians, were subject to torture, rape, sodomy, and other forms of physical and mental abuse at the hands of members of the U.S. Army and the CIA. The world may have never known if photographs, taken by some of the soldiers themselves, hadn't begun to circulate.

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The best known image came to be known as "The Hooded Man," was taken by a U.S. army Sergeant on November 4, 2003.

What was the Hooded Man photo?

Among the various disturbing images revealed from Abu Ghraib, the Hooded Man has come to be considered the most iconic, and perhaps most shocking. It was taken by Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, depicting a man standing on a box, his head covered, with wires attached to both hands.

The photograph, and others captured at Abu Ghraib and leaked the following year, serve as a testament to the most shocking evidence of the U.S. abuses overseas. The photos depicting detainee abuse inside Abu Ghraib at the hands of U.S. troops, came to symbolize the morally bankrupt occupation of Iraq following the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

Who's the man in the Hooded Man photograph?

For years, the identity hooded man in the photograph remained unclear. He was originally thought to be Ali-Shallal al-Qaisi, who was imprisoned at Abu Ghraib after US military seized his football pitch in Iraq for the purpose of dumping corpses and waste. He was arrested after attempting to contact foreign reporters about the incident.

The prisoner who'd been nicknamed Gilligan was later correctly identified as Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh. In another photo, which was taken approximately three minutes after the iconic picture with a different camera, Frederick is standing to the right of Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh.

Were  U.S. soldiers ever held responsible for Abu Ghraib torture?

There were 17 U.S. soldiers and officers removed from duty, with several faced court martial and sentenced to prison time.

Sgt. Ivan Frederick, who took the Hooded Man photo, pleaded guilty in May 2004 to conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, assault, and indecent acts. Sentenced to eight years, he also lost Army rank and pay, and was dishonorably discharged. In Oct. 2007, he was released on parole after serving nearly four years in prison.

Accountability never made its way up the chain of command. These events were only revealed to the American public when a collection of disturbing photographs taken by specialist Sabrina Harman were released to the public.

A memo written before the U.S. invaded Iraq was later revealed to have authorized certain “advanced interrogation techniques”, arguing that foreign prisoners detained overseas are not subject to the Geneva Conventions.

In 2004, a group of former detainees of Abu Ghraib prison filed a lawsuit claiming that they had been the victims of the abuse captured in photographs. The Supreme Court has since clarified that the U.S. military is in fact subject to the Geneva Conventions overseas, but not in time to prevent abuses like the ones at Abu Ghraib from taking place.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

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After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

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