THE BLOG
03/18/2006 01:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

"No Blood, No Foul": American Soldiers Played "Jailer Paintball" With Detainees

If you thought that "Let It Bleed" was just a Rolling Stones song, think again. In what seems like Chapter 22 in the book I hope someone will write, "President Bush Says the U.S. Does Not Engage in Torture," the New York Times introduces us to Task Force 6-26 and describes what it was doing both before and after the abuse at Abu Ghraib came to light in the the "Black Room" at Camp Nama, a converted Baghdad military installation located at the Baghdad airport.

"There, American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government's torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room.

In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations. "

They even had a slogan, "No Blood, No Foul."

"If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. "The reality is, there were no rules there," another Pentagon official said.

This and the other instances of torture that have come to light cannot continue to be viewed as isolated instances of misconduct by a few rogue soldiers.

"It adds to the picture of harsh interrogation practices at American military prisons in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as well as at secret Central Intelligence Agency detention centers around the world.

The new account reveals the extent to which the unit members mistreated prisoners months before and after the photographs of abuse from Abu Ghraib were made public in April 2004, and it helps belie the original Pentagon assertions that abuse was confined to a small number of rogue reservists at Abu Ghraib."

How much longer will the American people buy the "few bad apples" meme?

[Jeralyn Merritt blogs daily at TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime]