This article in tomorrow's Guardian suggests that some of these sexual humiliation methods apparently practiced at Abu Ghraib are taught to various special <$NoAd$> forces and military intelligence troops in the US and the UK, both to use them and also to prepare themselves to withstand them.
What's now happening in Iraq is that the same methods are being passed down to untrained and unsupervised reservists; and the whole situation spirals out of control.
I'm not sure this is the whole story. But it has a ring of truth to me, mixing, as it does, ugliness with disorganization and a spiralling cycle of unaccountability.
The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not an invention of maverick guards, but part of a system of ill-treatment and degradation used by special forces soldiers that is now being disseminated among ordinary troops and contractors who do not know what they are doing, according to British military sources.
The techniques devised in the system, called R2I - resistance to interrogation - match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.
One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: "It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn't know what they were doing."
He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre in Ashford, Kent, now transferred to the former US base at Chicksands
Many British and US special forces soldiers learn about the degradation techniques because they are subjected to them to help them resist if captured. They include soldiers from the SAS, SBS, most air pilots, paratroopers and members of pathfinder platoons
"The crucial difference from Iraq is that frontline soldiers who are made to experience R2I techniques themselves develop empathy. They realise the suffering they are causing. But people who haven't undergone this don't realise what they are doing to people. It's a shambles in Iraq".
The British former officer said the dissemination of R2I techniques inside Iraq was all the more dangerous because of the general mood among American troops.
"The feeling among US soldiers I've spoken to in the last week is also that 'the gloves are off'. Many of them still think they are dealing with people responsible for 9/11".
Not an excuse, certainly, but here I think we can start to see the contours of the perfect storm -- hideous methods, at least reserved for restricted cases, parcelled out to unsupervised amateurs, abetted by what might be generously termed high-level indifference. Marathon Man? Lord of the Flies?