Abu Ghraib – 1995

WSJ’s Daniel Henninger offers some perspective in his piece, Want a Different Abu Ghraib Story? Try This One.

As perfect justice, the story in fact begins in Abu Ghraib prison, in 1995. With Iraq’s economy in a tailspin, Saddam arrested nine Iraqi businessmen to scapegoat them as dollar traders. They got a 30-minute “trial,” and were sentenced, after a year’s imprisonment, to have their right hands surgically cut off at Abu Ghraib prison.

The amputations were performed, over two days, by a Baghdad anesthesiologist, a surgeon and medical staff. We know this because Saddam had a videotape made of each procedure. He had the hands brought to him in formalin and then returned to Abu Ghraib. Oh, one more thing: The surgeon carved an X of shame into the forehead of each man. And the authorities charged the men $50.

A gruesome story, to be sure. It doesn’t, of course, excuse the abuses committed by a few. It is, however, a pretty useful reminder of what our soldiers in Iraq have accomplished.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. pennywit says:

    On some level, I know that we needed prison facilities, and Abu Ghraib was what was available. But the symbolism of using it was absolutely awful.

    I often think U.S. troops should have demolished the prison instead of turning it into a detention facility.


  2. James Joyner says:

    Yep. Although they pointed out on Fox Special Report last night that the administration asked for several million to build new prisons in Iraq and Congress balked.

  3. pennywit says:

    Which part of Congress?

  4. McGehee says:

    The “I voted against it after I voted for it” part, I’m guessing…