No doubt about it - but Iraq is not alone in this.
The USA itself has used torture in places like Vietnam and El Salvador. The UK has used torture in Yemen and Cyprus before these countries became independent. France used torture in Algeria, again before independence.
USA officials have previously admitted using "stress and duress" on prisoners including sleep deprivation, denial of medication for battle injuries, forcing them to stand or kneel for hours on end, subjecting them to loud noises and sudden flashes of light, and engaging in cluturally humiliating practices such as having them kicked by female officers. The USA claims that these practices are "humane" while groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have denounded these practices as torture as defined by international treaty.
Human Rights Watch has also criticised the USA practice of handing over subjects to countries such as Jordan, Morocco or Egypt where torture is a normal part of the security aparatus. Legally, it says, there is no difference between using torture and "subcontracting it out".
The USA continues to refuse to recognise captives from Afghanistan as Prisoners of War subject to protection under the Geneva Convention. Many prisoners have been taken to military bases in Cuba without any legal extradition process. The prisoners have no access to council or their government officials. They have been threatened with a military tribunal that can condemn them to death in closed court with no rights of appeal.
Nearly 100 detainees were released (by early 2004) after being held for up to two and a half years without charges.
Some pictures showed USA troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another. The most iconic image shows a hooded prisoner standing on a small box with wires attached to his stretched-out arms.
Seymour Hersh, a USA journalist, asserts that most of the Iraqi prisoners were civilians picked up at checkpoints. He was quoting from a secret military report written by Major-General Antonio Taguba in January 2004. He describes many tortures used on Iraqi prisoners: "Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee".
Taguba's report states that the abuse is systematic and also included punching, slapping and kicking detainees, forcing male detainees to wear women's underwear, forcing male detainees to masturbate while being photographed, pulling detainees by dog chains placed around their necks, and a case of a male guard having sex with a female detainee.
Amnesty International reported that the torture of Iraqi prisoners by USA and UK soldiers was "not an isolated incident". During the year of occupation Amnesty International reported "frequent reports of torture or other ill-treatment by coalition forces during the past year" which included sleep deprivation, beatings, prolonged hooding and restraint in painful positions, and exposure to bright lights and loud music. The International Red Cross also said that these abuses had been occuring for a year. Confirmation comes from Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederik, who says he was told to use these techniques on prisoners to "soften them up" for interrogation.