MURRAY Evidence is still being uncovered related to the torture of detainees that took place in Iraq in 2003, although a unit of Utah soldiers who recently helped interrogate thousands of detainees in Iraq say prisoner abuse didn't happen under their watch.
And now a small group of Quakers here wants to make sure no one is ever tortured by U.S. troops.
Hanging outside a meetinghouse in Murray, where about 40 Quakers hold Sunday services, a black and white banner reads, "Torture is wrong." Inside, a handful of people gathered one night this past week to watch Rory Kennedy's Emmy-winning documentary, "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib."
The banner and a copy of the 80-minute movie belong to the Quakers. The aim is that congregations from other religions along the Wasatch Front will want to borrow the banner and documentary, which first emerged this year as a Sundance Film Festival selection and was later picked up by HBO.
So far, no one has taken up the Quakers on their offer.
Invitations also went out to view Kennedy's film, but only six people showed up for the screening, which was one of many such showings around the country this year as part of a project organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. The message being spread by the NRCAT's campaign is, "Torture is a moral issue."
"I think part of it is that it's a topic that people really don't like to discuss and a lot of people don't like to think about," said Emily Box, who organized the screening in Murray. "I think it scares people, frankly."
The documentary shows naked Iraqi men chained to beds and doors inside Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and on-camera interviews are given by the soldiers responsible for the torture captured on video and in photos.
Kennedy shows a copy of a document signed by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose own handwritten statement at the bottom of the document is interpreted as giving a "wink and a nod" toward harsher treatment of detainees.
One point of the film is to show how government policy allowed for extreme physical and psychological abuse of Iraqi prisoners. New York-based ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer recently spoke in Utah about government documents he is finding that prove how such abuse was sanctioned, encouraged and, at the very least, known among Washington officials all the way to the top.
"I think that President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld misrepresented what they knew about the abuse of prisoners," Jaffer told the Deseret Morning News last month. "It's impossible to believe that Bush wasn't informed that this wasn't a bigger problem."
But members of the Utah National Guard's 141st Military Intelligence Battalion had nothing but good reports from their 10 months in Iraq, where they helped screen 22,000 detainees, resulting in 4,000 of them being interrogated, some dozens of times. At no point during that time were there any incidents of violence or violations of the Geneva Conventions, U.S. law or the policies of the Department of Defense and Army, according to Utahn Lt. Col. Gregory J. Hadfield.
Under Hadfield's command, interrogators used any number of 17 authorized techniques outlined in a field manual to get detainees to talk. He said the interrogations, some of which lasted up to 12 hours, were monitored and recorded by video and audio while military police kept a close watch.
Hadfield and others said some of the information detainees gave led to uncovering roadside bombs before they exploded and finding weapons caches where improvised explosive devices were being made.
"They could see their work was being used by combat units it was saving lives," Hadfield said earlier this month about members of the 141st.
Box, however, isn't convinced the torture and abuse has stopped. "I believe it's still happening and that's unacceptable," she said.
Jaffer and the Quakers hope more people will become educated about the subject of torture and get involved in making sure no U.S. troops or officials are involved in the abuse of foreign prisoners. Box said she will continue taking "baby steps" toward getting people talking more about a subject that she said is too uncomfortable to address for most people."It's not a Quaker issue, it's not a Christian issue, it's not just people of faith," Box said. "It's a human issue."
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