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AFT Resolutions

RESOLUTION ON ABU GHRAIB

The American Federation of Teachers expresses its anger and revulsion at the abuses committed by Americans at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

The damage done to the vision of America as a beacon for democracy is incalculable. The acts that led to this catastrophe are the result, in the words of the Army's investigator, Major General Antonio M. Toguba, of a "failure in leadership from the brigade commander on down. Lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision. Supervisory omission was rampant." We believe that the failure of leadership did not end with the brigade commander, although, at this writing, the complicity of others higher in the chain of command, as well as military intelligence and private contractors, is still under investigation. We call for a full investigation of all parties involved.

The Bush administration must take responsibility for a number of crucial failures that have resulted in the current situation: 1) it has not provided sufficient military personnel to handle the war-to-peace transition; 2) it has created a muddled chain of command, resulting from an overlap of military police/military intelligence responsibilities, and the unprecedented privatization of many security, intelligence and detainee treatment functions; and 3) it has demonstrated an unbelievable insensitivity to the impact on Iraqi citizens of the continued use of Saddam Hussein's most notorious prison by the U.S. Army. Abu Ghraib should have been razed as a first priority, and all other detainee facilities made a showcase for proper treatment of prisoners, as a demonstration of how a democratic Iraq's prison system should operate.

These actions were often taken in the face of repeated warnings from politicians and experts across the political spectrum, many of whom supported the war. They reveal an administration full of hubris, spectacularly obtuse and lacking moral clarity. The administration has squandered much of the moral capital of the U.S. at a time when we need it most. It has let down the Iraqis who are hoping for a peaceful and democratic future. It has let down the American citizens here at home and the American soldiers stationed in Iraq, who wish for a successful, democratic Iraq, whether or not they originally supported the war.

The United States must immediately and unequivocally declare its intention to act under the terms of the Geneva Convention. It must declare its unswerving commitment to treat all those under U.S. jurisdiction in a humane way.

We pledge ourselves to do everything in our power to re-establish the United States' vision and mission in the forefront of the fight for freedom and democracy throughout the world.

[AFT Executive Council, May 2004]


(2004)